More than 16,000 workers in Swaziland's key textile industry have gone on strike to press for better pay and working conditions, their union said on Wednesday.
Alex Fakudze, president of the Swaziland Manufacturing and Allied Workers Union, said the stoppage at 10 factories, which began on Monday, would continue until all workers are handed 12 per cent pay rises.
"Even if it means earning zero at the end of the month, we do not mind because we want what is due to us," Fakudze told AFP in the industrial capital Matsapha.
"Some of our members earn less than 800 emalangeni (Dh367) a month and that must come to an end.
"Most of these business people have money to donate to the royal family but they do not have money for paying us and we want what is due to us."
The strike has been authorised by the Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC) after talks between management and unions hit an impasse.
Enterprise and Employment Minister Lutfo Dlamini said that while he sympathised with the aims of the workers, he feared industrial action could ultimately prove counter-productive if it scared away foreign investors.
"I would be happy if the strike would bear the desired result, but I am still worried what will happen after the strike," he said.
After sugarcane farming, the textile industry is the main employer in the southern African kingdom, one of the poorest countries on the continent. Many of the textile factories are owned by Taiwanese businessmen.
There was no immediate comment available from the management of the textile firms as their factories were closed. (AFP)