June 2, 2006

International union slams Ramatex

THE International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) has slammed plans by textile giant Ramatex to close its Windhoek factory.

The ITGLWF says instead of Ramatex demanding half a billion dollars for its factory, it should be paying back the Namibian Government for the benefits it received in the form of subsidised services and free infrastructure, as well as the damage it has caused to the environment.

"Once heralded as a major economic boost for Namibia, the Ramatex investment has turned out to be a drain on the country's economy, a danger to its environment and a menace to its exploited workforce," the ITGLWF's Neil Kearney said in a statement.

Last month, Ramatex Executive Director Albert Lim came to Namibia and told Prime Minister Nahas Angula that his company was no longer interested in operating in the country because factory production had not reached the expected and desired levels. Lim offered the factory for sale to Government - in the region of N$500 million - an offer Government has declined, offering a turnaround strategy for the factory that would include further benefits and incentives.

"It is this sort of shameful behaviour which gives multi-nationals a bad reputation," said Kearney. "This decision is a major kick in the teeth for Namibian workers who earn starvation wages and have gone for three years without a pay increase," charged Kearney.

In its statement, the ITGLWF pleaded with Lim to reverse his decision to withdraw from Namibia, saying many of the factory's young workers needed the work to support families which depend on them. Namibia has an unemployment rate of 30 per cent. "They and their families deserve better than to be used and abused for a few years and then cast on the scrap heap," said Kearney.

One day before, the Director of the Labour Resource and Research Institute, Herbert Jauch, said he was disappointed that Government had not heeded warnings that the writing was on the wall that Ramatex would leave the country and its 6 000 workers in the lurch. He said the manner in which multi-nationals like Ramatex used a country and its people to their benefit was not unique to Namibia.

Presenting LaRRI's annual report in Windhoek, Jauch said other African countries like Lesotho, Swaziland and Ghana had all fallen victim to being used by international textile companies which made off after making profits, leaving these industries to collapse after they had left. He said if the Government "had guts", it could sue Ramatex for problems like environmental degradation.

The global union federation ITGLWF said it would ask Ramatex's retailers to exert pressure on the company to shoulder its responsibilities and live up to its original promises. Ramatex has further been asked to put in place proper management, pay its workers a living wage and operate the plant as a fully integrated one using African cotton. (ITGLWF)

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