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Swazi garment workers continue strike despite threats of eviction by security forces

TRADE unionists in Swaziland have been threatened with eviction by security forces if they do not return to work after five weeks of strike action over pay. 

Garment workers have stopped work in the country’s Nhlangano district, a hub of textile factories, as they demand a living wage.

Such is their determination that on May 2 some walked for more than 8km to join a 2,000-strong mass meeting where workers reaffirmed their commitment to strike action. 

They are refusing to back down despite attempts at strike-breaking and intimidation by the police and armed forces who have reportedly fired tear gas into people’s homes. 

Security forces have even threatened to evict them unless they return for work, according to the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland. 

It accuses factory bosses of colluding with the government in its campaign of intimidation instead of negotiating to settle the strike. 

The union’s general secretary Wander Mkhonza said that although workers were fatigued after five weeks of action, the strike continues. 

“We will continue to fight with everything within our power as a union until our demands are met. 

“We are only fighting for living wages for our members, and I would like to emphasise that this is a labour dispute between workers and the employer. 

“However, we are shocked by the threats to our members by security forces who are not part of the wage dispute,” he said. 

The garment workers have the support of the IndustriALL global trade union federation which has urged the government to respect the right to strike and stop the intimidation and harassment.

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