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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Union Boys in Caps Leading Factory Girls Astray?' The Politics of Labour Reform in Lesotho's 'Feminised' Garment Industry
Author:Gibbs, Tim
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:Lesotho
Subjects:clothing industry
trade unions
labour relations
Labor and Employment
Women's Issues
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Politics and Government
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057070500035752
Abstract:Following accession in 2000 to the US bilateral trade treaty, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Lesotho has become the leading African garment exporter to the USA. One key issue in debates surrounding globalization has concerned the work conditions experienced by labour forces in the textile industry. Many have argued that 'feminised workforces' are exploited by a patriarchal alliance of international industrialists and local State elites. This article follows the rise and fall of the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union (LECAWU), suggesting that these arguments do not fully explain the course of labour politics. From 1998 to 2003, LECAWU was the largest workers' organization in the garment sector, which employs some 50,000 people in Lesotho, the majority of whom are women. The union's militant leadership took advantage of the confused, explosive labour relations in the garment sector, their presence weakening repressive government officials and manufacturers. This allowed the more moderate Lesotho Labour Commission to drive through a patrician series of reforms. Moves towards industrial peace were given further impetus because the industry is reliant upon exports to American markets and so had to respond to labour standards concerns articulated by the US government, trade unions and retailers. Nevertheless, neither international interventions nor incremental domestic reforms consolidated the union's position or removed the nettle that causes labour unrest. Thus, at the time of writing, industrial relations remain turbulent and a divisive split within LECAWU threatens the prospects of reform. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]