Although 2,500 workers had an agreement with Zheng Yong dating from 2008 that they would get paid leave, the company failed to pay this year, claiming it could not afford to do so.
The Industrial Court in Swaziland sided with the company when it said the agreement had been made in 2008 when the company’s performance had been good. But, it said last year business had been less good so it decided not to pay for leave.
The textile workers went on strike demanding payment for the 17 days annual leave.
Acting Judge Thulani Dlamini said the strike was illegal after the company claimed workers would become violent and put lives and property at risk.
The Swaziland textile industry is notorious for its bad pay and working conditions. In 2008 local media in Swaziland reported that textile workers were so poorly paid they were near ‘starvation’.
The Swazi Observer reported, ‘The workers themselves admit that they had developed strategies to confront starvation because what they earn can hardly see them through the week.’
Textile workers in Swaziland can earn as little as E400 (about US$60) per fortnight.
A plate of food on sale at factory gates in the industrial town of Matsapha costs between E5 and E8, depending on the quantity. At times two girls share the smaller plate of E5 and that sustains them until the end of the eight-hour working day, the Observer reported.
The US State Department, in its 2009 Country Report [on Swaziland] on Human Rights said, ‘These minimum wages did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Migrant workers were not covered under minimum wage laws. Wage arrears, particularly in the garment industry, were a problem.’
SWAZILAND TEXTILE WORKERS NEAR STARVING
SWAZI WORKERS OPEN TO ABUSE