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Liberal Market Damages Industry

The Nation, 15 March 2001

The opening up of the economy has damaged the textile and shoe industries, leading to massive job losses and worsening poverty.

Labour Minister Joseph Ngutu said the opening up of the domestic market to international trade and competition had weakened local industries.

Inadequate power supplies, drought and high taxation, Mr Ngutu added, had led to high production costs of textiles and shoe products, creating room for dumping of cheap imports.

Consequently, he said, the tailors and textile workers' union had lost 85 per cent of its members following closure of industries.

He said the membership, which stood at 82,000 before liberalisation, was less than 12,000 today.

The shoe and leather union, which once boasted a 13,000-membership before liberalisation, has only 4,000 members currently. The minister made the remarks at the ongoing International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers

Federation workshop at Silver Springs Hotel, Nairobi. Participants are drawn from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mauritius, Swaziland and South Africa.

The African regional secretary of ITGLWF, Mr Jabu Ncobo, accused multinational companies of disregarding the welfare of workers.

Mr Joseph Bolo, the general secretary of the Kenya Shoe and Leather workers Union echoed Mr Ncobo's sentiments, saying: "They (multinationals) are giving us a rough time when discussing the terms and conditions of service."

In response, Mr Ngutu called for respect and protection of workers' rights both in the formal and informal sectors.

Copyright 2001 The Nation. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).