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Factory workers go on ‘forced’ leave

6 Textile  workers during a lunch breakMaseru- Super Knitting textiles firm at Ha Thetsane is closing down for three weeks starting this Friday due to lack of orders from their customers. The firm joins other textile firm that have expressed the need for taking a short break during this period, therefore sending their workers on forced leave.

According to some workers from Super Knitting, the company management held a meeting with them recently to inform them that the firm will be going on short-term break for three weeks starting from April 24 2017 until May 2 2017. The workers said management had cited lack of orders from capital markets such as the USA, Europe and Asia for the closure.

It is not known whether management at Super Knitting would pay the workers their salaries during their absence as one of the workers said they were promised a full salary for the month of April but was not sure whether they would get a full salary for May.

However, a representative of the United Textile Employees (Unite) Union Qamaka Seeko said the slashing of days by the textile firms should not affect the monthly salaries of the workers since their contracts were not being terminated.

However, Seeko said he could not comment on the Super Knitting firm since they have not yet received a formal report from the company and in addition, Unite members from the firm have not said anything to them yet.

In April last year, the textiles workers’ trade unions expressed fear that the industry was facing massive collapse as most firms were struggling to meet the dwindling orders from the foreign buyers. The unions cried out that the US, as the most preferred destination for most textiles products from Lesotho, had cut back due to the Concessions provided under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) agreement.

AGOA was enacted by the American Congress in May 2000, to allow all goods produced in eligible sub-Saharan countries to enter the United States (US) market duty-free. Textile products from Lesotho were also included on the list but the US has been cutting back on the country’s quota over the years citing various issues, among them respect for the rule of law, economic policies to reduce poverty, and efforts to combat corruption.

Even though the US government has extended the legislation to 2025, many textile firms in Lesotho have been finding difficult to export their products to the US market of late, leaving management with no choice but to downsize operations or temporarily close shop until they get business.

The textile industry is Lesotho’s biggest private sector employer with an estimated 35 000 workers, most of them women who are sole breadwinners for their families.

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