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30 000 workers stand to lose their jobs

23 May 2014, Posted in NUMSA News

About 30 000 workers in Swaziland’s textile sector and other manufacturing industries will lose their jobs this year.

Texray Swaziland, the kingdom’s biggest textile company, will lose more than 2000 jobs alone, because the Swazi Government failed to comply with  conditions  set  by  the  United  States  Government  preferential  trade  Agreement, African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).

Under AGOA, the US grants African countries  duty-free  access  of  specific  products  including  textiles  and  clothing  to  its market.

AGOA contains specific criteria that countries must meet to enjoy the benefits of AGOA, including recognizing workers’ rights Under  the  trade  arrangement  Swaziland  has  exported  goods  worth  more  than  US$ 49.749 million in 2013, a decline from US$59.855 in 2012. For the small, ailing, Swazi economy this was a massive injection of funds.

However, in the past 13 years the Swazi government has failed to comply with AGOA’s basic criteria, namely:  Full  passage  of  amendments  to  the  Industrial  Relations Act  to  allow  for  the registration of trade unions and worker federations.

Currently, the government has refused to register and recognise the only labour federation in the country, Tucoswa. It also refused the registration of a new industrial union, formed with the  assistance  of  Numsa,  the  Amalgamated  Trade  Unions  of Swaziland (Atuswa).

It  bans  political  parties,  detains  activists  and  brutally  suppresses worker meetings. Full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA)

Removal of the 1973 Decree that bans political parties and freedom of association and expression Full  passage  of  amendments  to  the  Public Order  Act  (POA)  which  gives  the police unlimited powers to disperse gatherings

Full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act
relating to civil. The deadline for the Swazi government to comply is May, 15.

It’s worth noting that 40 other African countries also benefit from AGOA. Human Rights Lawyer, Thulani Maseko and editor of an in dependent Magazine, Bheki
Makhubu; unionists and members of political parties and some civic organisations have been illegally detained.

Perhaps, it’s time to put pressure on the Swazi regime, including economic sanctions.  Atuswa general secretary Wonder Mkhonza is concerned at the number of job losses on the cards and said Atuswa will run a campaign to raise worker awareness as the Swazi government blames unions for the loss of the AGOA status.

“It’s  not  us,  it’s  the  government.  They  are  afraid  that full  compliance  will usher  in democracy in Swaziland,” says Mkhonza.

Skhumbuzo Phakathi is Numsa’s International Officer