SUNBIZ

Towler: 27,000 Hit By Shutdown

“Close to 20,000 people are direct dependants of those employed by the sector,” council president, Mike Towler said.
04 May 2021 12:09
Towler: 27,000 Hit By Shutdown
Performance Flotation Development factory in Nabua, was one of the many factories forced to temporarily close because of a recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the Central Division. Photo: Leon Lord

The livelihood of an estimated 27,000 people who depend on the textile, clothing and footwear sector is at stake. after garment factories closed over a week ago, following a COVID-19 outbreak in the Central Division.

The sector employs an estimated 7000 employees, most of them women, said Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council of Fiji.

“Close to 20,000 people are direct dependants of those employed by the sector,” council president, Mike Towler said.

The revised more stringent COVID-19 restrictions was followed by the cordoning off of parts of the Central Division.

The council had asked for special provisions to allow garment factories to operate.

“Two weeks without income will be very difficult,” Mr Towler said.

Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council of Fiji president, Mike Towler.

Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council of Fiji president, Mike Towler.

“Seven thousand people without income for two weeks can be problematic.”

Measures

The council said it wrote to the Ministry of Commerce with an appeal outlining measures that included operating with minimal staff under high safety protocol.

“We can put a plan to the ministry to review, but they’re all spooked by the COVID-19 scare that concerned the two garment factories,” Mr Towler said.

“That incident involved a staff member from one factory fraternising with a staff of a neighbouring factory – where the initial test results returned negative.

“The idea is to keep factories operating in order to meet overseas orders that were placed prior to the recent lockdown, curfew and containment rules.”

Garment factories are an essential service, he said.

Cost 

Mr Towler said he wrote on two occasions to the permanent secretary for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Shaheen Ali.

“The first was acknowledged, but no definitive response yet,” he said.

The council comprises 50 members, that export mainly to Australia and New Zealand.

“Losses will run into the 10 of millions of dollars,” Mr Towler said.

“Our industry exports in excess of $100 million a year.

“Our export industry was booming with lots of new customers in the middle of the pandemic.

“If there are no other infections found at those two factories, we can say our COVIDSAFE plans are working,” Mr Towler said.

SunBiz had sought comments from the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport over the past three days.

Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj



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