Andre Kriel, the g eneral s ecretary of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu), recently accused the Apparel Manufacturers Association (Amsa) of misrepresenting the union's position in respect of the high levels of minimum wage noncompliance by employers in the clothing manufacturing sector (Union misrepresented, Letters, June 21).

The difficulty we have is that he consistently fails to use such opportunities to publicly record exactly what the union's position is. We are now compelled to approach the Labour Court to order the Bargaining Council to enforce its employment standards.

More than 400 writs of execution have been gathering dust for more than six months. If Sactwu is committed to ensuring that all employees in the clothing industry receive the wages legally due to them, why should it be necessary for Amsa to approach the Labour Court in this regard? The reality is that the union finds itself in a conflicted position due to its membership profile spanning across both compliant and noncompliant factories. Closing these noncompliant companies would result in the union being a party to a decision which would lead to members losing their jobs.

The extent of the pressures and contradictions faced by the union while it attempts to keep the pieces together on this policy tightrope, must be unbearable. The union's rejection of our proposals for a new wage model, makes no sense. Added to this, the union misrepresents our position when it says that our wage model proposal seeks to reduce the wages of employees.

Space does not permit me to go into the detail other than to categorically state that our proposal guarantees the wages of employees will not be reduced, while making it more attractive for employers to employ more people from the ranks of the poor and unemployed. This is admittedly at a lower minimum wage. Our model does, however, make provision for such employees to earn more in terms of factory-based incentive schemes.

Sactwu's declaration of a dispute with Amsa is viewed by many as insensitive to the national interest.

The question arises whether the union is somehow compelled to hold a particular ideological position irrespective of the consequences.

Johann Baard

Executive director, Amsa