Cape Town Clothing Workers’ Attitudes Towards Key Aspects of and Alternatives to Regulation by the Bargaining Council
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The South African clothing industry has shed over 70 000 jobs in the last decade. This has given rise to huge debate about the role of the Bargaining Council and Minister of Labour in regulating wages and employment conditions. The Bargaining Council and Minister set minimum wages, differentiated by region, occupation and experience. However, they have not permitted full-scale productivity-related pay. The government has also moved to restrict cooperatives. The study set out to explore the attitudes of formal and informal clothing workers toward the wage-regulatory framework, and three alternatives to the current model of wage-regulation by the Bargaining Council and Minister: • Performance-based incentive pay • Home-based informal workshops • Worker co-operatives Both formal and informal workers generally had a very poor understanding of the industry’s regulatory environment and required brief explanations. Attitudes to the alternatives varied between the two groups. All workers were generally against performance-based pay because they distrusted employers whom they thought would cheat them. Most formal workers regarded informal work as a viable alternative for retrenched workers although they themselves could not imagine working in informal workshops. Both sets of workers were positive towards worker co-operatives, which appear to have the advantage of changing the working relationship from manager and worker to one where the workers are owners. All workers demonstrated overall awareness of the pressures facing the clothing industry, such as those caused by cheap Chinese imports. The evidence in this study is not sufficient to arrive at a set of conclusions regarding alternatives to wage-regulation by the Bargaining Council and Minister. Instead, the findings reveal areas of further research and create a foundation to understand better the various dynamics in the industry.