Coronavirus to wipe off jobs

Coronavirus to wipe off jobs

MASERU-THE Coronavirus could wipe off thousands of jobs in Lesotho’s fragile textile sector, thepost can reveal.
More than a dozen textile factories have told labour unions that they might cut jobs after struggling to get raw materials from China, the epicentre of the virus.
China has imposed tight controls on its borders and ports as it battles to contain the virus that has so far killed 3 000 people and infected nearly 90 000 worldwide.
Production has slowed down and shipments have been delayed, creating bottlenecks on the supply of raw materials like fabric, zippers and threads.

So far thirteen companies have told unions that they could retrench or temporarily lay off some workers.
The unions say they received most of the letters in February and have been making frantic efforts to avoid a jobs carnage.
thepost has seen some of the letters and they sound strikingly similar.
“We at Asia Garments foresee some shortage of orders this year and if the situation persists, it seems we might have to put our workers through short time at one week per line for about a month,” said the company in a February 7 letter.

Asia Garments employs 250 people.
On February 10 Middle Sky, which has 400 workers, requested a meeting with unions to discuss what it called “layoff from work due to operational requirements”.
The Tai–Yaun Garments Group which owns three factories and has 3 200 workers also called unions to a meeting to discuss possible retrenchments.
Maseru-E-Textile, with 850 employees, said the same but explicitly blamed the Coronavirus for woes.

“Management of Maseru E wishes to inform you that the large portion of orders made in the factory currently come from China and on account of the on-going coronavirus endemic, there is a possibility that the company might encounter a shortage of orders in the months of March and April 2020 as the factories providing the orders have ceased some operations for some time now.”
Ever Successful Textile has said it also wants to put some of its 620 workers on “short time or layoff”.

Sebinane Maretlane, the human resources manager of Maseru E Textiles, described the situation as “desperate”.
“If the problem persists we might have to lay off some workers. We are looking at about 1 000 workers who will be affected,” Maretlane said.
The president of the Lesotho Textiles Exporters’ Association (LTEA), David Chen, said the problem is that Chinese fabric mills opened late because of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Chen said about 80 percent of the factories will experience “some two to three week delays on their orders”.

“They might have to send some workers home for those weeks but that doesn’t mean there are retrenchments in the factories,” he said, adding that “although the situation is dire there is no need to panic because it’s temporary”.
May Rathakane, the deputy secretary general of the Independent Democratic Unions of Lesotho, said they have also received a letter from Adent.
He said the company which makes seat covers for Ford and Volkswagen, wanted to retrench 145 workers.
“Fortunately, we have managed to persuade most of the factories to avoid retrenchments,” Rathakane said.
“The agreement is that if the problem continues they will lay off some workers for some time while they wait for their raw materials.”

The National Clothing and Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) however said they are sceptical that the Coronavirus is the real reason for the impending retrenchments.
“We have met the factories but we are not fully convinced by their explanations,” said NACTWU spokesperson Sam Mokhele.
The Coronavirus was first reported in China’s Wuhan City on December 31. But this week global infection had reached just over 90 000, with 3 000 dead.

The World Health Organisation has raised alert to very high, the highest possible level, as the world battles the outbreak.
More than 80 000 cases have been reported in China but 60 other countries are dealing with the crisis.
South Korea, Italy and Iran are fighting the largest outbreaks outside of China. The disease has hit the global economy hard.
Last week major stock markets lost a staggering US$1.5 trillion, the worst drop since the 2008 financial crisis.

Global trade has also taken a huge knock and economic growth prospects look bleak.
Last week Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro warned that Lesotho is not immune to the knock-on effects of the virus on the world economy.

Staff Reporter

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