THE Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) says it may be able to avert a strike as most employers have agreed to its pay demands.

The union said in a statement on Friday that it had received a solid mandate to strike after a ballot was taken by more than 43,000 of its members across the country during the past two weeks.

It said, however, that it appeared a national strike may now be averted. "We were advised by yesterday evening that all the clothing employer associations, except the Natal Clothing Manufacturers Association (NCMA), have now agreed to the trade union’s final wage demands," Sactwu general secretary Andre Kriel said.

The Cape Clothing Association, the Eastern Province Clothing Manufacturers’ Association, the Free State and Northern Cape Clothing Manufacturers’ Association, the Northern Decentralised Clothing Manufacturers’ Association, the Transvaal Clothing Manufacturers’ Association, and the Coastal Clothing Manufacturers’ Association have all confirmed they will settle on the union’s final demands.

"We welcome their decision as wise. Our demands have always been reasonable and affordable. We regard the NCMA rejection as bizarre, as all its individual member companies have already agreed to implement the wage increases," Mr Kriel said.

According to the wage settlement, metro area workers will get a 6.5% wage increase and nonmetro area workers will receive increases ranging between 7.2% and 8.5%, backdated to September 1, when the increases were due.

Mr Kriel said that on Thursday a shop stewards council was convened and the decision was taken to suspend the strike action until the final settlement was signed.

"We hope to finalise a written agreement during the course of next week," he said.

Johann Baard, executive director of employers body the Apparel Manufacturers of South Africa, could not be reached for comment.