Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou visited the Tex Ray factory in Matsapha on his recent tour of the kingdom because it was hailed as one of the best in Swaziland.
But workers at the Swazi factory who are mainly women became angry when they learned that the president had been told that their wages were good and it was possible for them to earn E2,000 a month salary.
Employees at Tex Ray refused to work when they heard the news and were seen toyi-toying and singing instead. They then staged a sit in at the factory.
They said Tex Ray management hid the truth of their plight from the president, local media reported. Workers said giving the president misleading information about their salaries had cost them an opportunity to get a reasonable salary adjustment because the president had seemed genuinely interested in the employees’ welfare.
The workers said they were not prepared to return to work until management increased their salaries to E2,000.
The textile industry in Swaziland is mostly owned by Taiwanese businesses and wages are so low that companies in South Africa have threatened to move their factories to Swaziland to avoid paying the minimum wage in that country.
It is believed that many workers in textile factories at present in Swaziland do not receive even the kingdom’s minimum wage that varies between E420 (US$57) a month for an unskilled worker and E600 (US $81) a month for a skilled worker.
Many women workers in the textile industry get paid much less than the minimum wage. A report in 2010 stated that employees in Matsanjeni typically earned E160 a month and were forced to turn to prostitution to survive.
Some women textile workers reported they earned E5.50 per hour (about 85 US cents) and had to live six to a room and three to a bed to get by. They tried to share food as the cheapest meal for one person costs E10 and a piece of fruit costs E1.
EXPLOITATION BY TAIWAN TEXTILES
COST OF ‘FRIENDSHIP’ WITH TAIWAN
SWAZI TEXTILE PAY STRIKE ILLEGAL