(MENAFN- The Post) MASERU - LESOTHO'S biggest textile firm, Nien Hsing International, has retrenched 4 000 employees due to a lack of orders from the United States markets, where most products are destined.
Nien Hsing is a Levi manufacturing company that is located in the Thetsane Industrial Area in Maseru.
Trade unionists say they are afraid that last Thursday's retrenchment of workers from Nien Hsing is just the first sign of what is yet to come as Covid-19 ravages the world.
May Rathakane, secretary-general of the Independent Democratic Unions of Lesotho (Idul), said the retrenchment is not necessarily the result of the recent brush of Covid-19 on the company.
Rathakane said this is brought upon by the American markets where the factories sell their products.
Rathakane said another company under Nien Hsing, Glory, shut down last year due to the declining market demand.
Because of the declining market demands abroad, chances are high that more factories are going to close down, he said.
The textile sector employs about 40 000 people, mostly women, in Lesotho.
According to Care, an international organisation fighting poverty and injustice in the world's most vulnerable places, Covid-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on global garment supply chains.
Care says global brands and retailers are cancelling orders from their supplier factories and many governments are imposing restrictions on travel and gatherings.
“As a result, many garment factories are suspending production and either firing or temporarily suspending their workers,” it says.
“Current data suggest that over a million workers have already been fired or temporarily suspended from work and the numbers will continue to increase.”
Rathakane said when the firm retrenched workers last Thursday they had already heard from the American Embassy that one of the Chinese managers had died of Covid-19 related illness.
Also, this Monday a Filipino working in the same firm allegedly died of Covid-19 related complications.
The report, he said, has worried them very much.
Rathakane said they understand the frustration of the firm but such things have to be discussed with the workers' representatives first.
“We are wondering how they are dying yet they are vaccinated,” Rathakane asked.
He said that the Chinese worked in the cutting section.
“The employer does not report such incidents to us so we rely on the embassy for updates,” he said.
This news comes hardly three weeks after reports of Chinese workers, both in the management and middle ranks, who have succumbed to death due to Covid-19 in other firms at the Maseru West Industrial Area.
He insisted that many Chinese have died recently citing the Precious Factory where two Chinese have died allegedly due to Covid-19 related complications.
“A Philippine native died last week and now it is this one,” Rathakane said.
But the death allegations have not been verified with the factories as they declined to comment.
He said it is hurting that workers are the ones badly affected as they will lose their jobs, perhaps for good.
Hundreds of factory workers have contracted the virus in Maseru and Maputsoe, the main cities with textile factories.
The firm, he said, has been hinting that it would retrench as far back as January after the last year lockdown almost collapsed most firms locally and abroad.
Rathakane said the process of negotiations started in January this year in which the company was complaining of the decline of the market.
Most of the textile factories export their produce to the United States through the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), a US law meant to ease trade with pro-democracy African countries.
Nien Hsing company has three branches and has hired about 12 000 employees who work there on a full-time basis.
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