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Unions rebuff claims of a looming jobs carnage

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

Trade unions this week rebuffed allegations that textile manufacturer, Nien Hsing Textile Group, might close shop very soon.

However, concerned workers who spoke to Newsday on condition of anonymity this week said there were rumours that “Nien Hsing Group is about to be closed”.

The workers added: “We as factory workers are very confused about this, as none of the management members has informed us. These rumours are being spread by some unions’ members” adding that “there is no smoke without fire”.

They said they were living in fear of losing their jobs. Ongoing fears about losing a job have been identified as some of the factors that can worsen existing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

International Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), United Textile Employees (UNITE) and National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) deny that Nien Hsing faces closure.

Deputy General Secretary of IDUL, May Rathakane, told Newsday that he learned from a meeting with the firm’s management that it will not close.

“When we were in that meeting, we were only made aware that the firm is seeing a decrease in orders. This is something that happens often, it is not new and it is known to many firms,” he said.

He stated that the firm had not yet communicated with trade unions how it plans to overcome the challenge it is faced with.

Potloane Monare of UNITE confirmed that there had been a meeting between firm management and trade unions as he emphasised that no one suggested that the firm faced closure.

“The meeting between the firm and unions was held and we were only told that the business is experiencing problems in terms of getting orders. I personally think they will not close but look for other alternatives that will keep the firm operating like laying off some of the workers,” he said.

Speaking for NACTWU, Tšepang Makole echoed his comrades’ sentiments and rebuffed claims that the firm faces closure.

He pointed to a meeting they were supposed to have had with the firm management as trade unions earlier this week which would have provided clarity on the status quo, however, at the time of going to press last night it was not clear what the status was especially in relation to the meeting.

The rumours were also rejected by the firm’s human resources manager, Moleboheng Pea.

“When a decision has been made to close, formal communication is made to all relevant stakeholders. I can only be in a position to comment when there is formal communication. In the absence of formal communication, these are just rumours” Pea said.

Nien Hsing Textiles Group originates from Taiwan.

As recent as 2020, the group had five textile manufacturing factories in Lesotho, manufacturing denim jeans for top American clothing brands such as Levi Strauss and Co, the Children’s Place, and Kontoor Brands.

The five factories are Nien Hsing International, Global International, C & Y Garments, Formosa Textiles and Glory International.

Glory International closed in 2020 sending home about 1500 workers.

In April last year, local media reported that Nien Hsing would retrench about 2500 workers to manage costs due to the Covid-19-induced slump in demand for denim products.

This, according to reports, would leave the company with just 500 workers.

Pea told Newsday that the group was left with only one firm operating in Lesotho, Global International. Others, she said, closed shop due to a lack of demand that was caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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