South African labour unions Tuesday demanded that the national rugby federation apologise for importing Springbok jerseys from China in the run-up to the World Cup.
However, the South African Rugby Union brushed off the complaint, insisting that most jerseys were locally made.
"The majority of these products are produced in South Africa and we are firmly committed to increasing the local manufacturing component of such products in the future," SARU said in a statement.
South Africa has lost about half of its textiles jobs since 2000, while imports have steadily risen - a trend the industry ministry has blamed on a volatile local currency, illegal imports and a shortage of skilled labour.
COSATU, the powerful labour federation that includes textile workers in its ranks, called the import of green and yellow shirts from China a "scandal".
Spokesman Tony Ehrenreich said COSATU wants a commitment from SARU to produce more jerseys locally and to apologise to workers for not supporting "proudly South African production", the South African Press Association reported.
Job losses are a major political issue in South Africa, where unemployment officially runs around 25 percent but is really far higher as many people have given up searching for jobs and are no longer counted in the labour survey.
However, SARU said a "significant percentage" of SARU supporter wear is sourced from local manufacturers.
"SARU has gone to great lengths to ensure that supporters are provided with a range of supporters wear which is affordable and accessible to all South Africans," the statement said.
"SARU has an obligation to provide a wide range of product to our supporters, from the top end of the market to the low end of the consumer spectrum. SARU is not a clothing manufacturer and our licensing agent, Signet Licensing, have therefore contracted various suppliers to manufacture and supply the market with supporter wear apparel.
"SARU has through its integrated licensing programme for the first time this year developed a wide product range that satisfies all spectrums of the consumer market to ensure that the product is competitive from a price perspective as well as quality.
"The distribution channels have been extended to include [many major] retailers as well as smaller independent stores throughout South Africa to ensure that we make product accessible to as much of the market as possible.
"The majority of these products are produced in South Africa and we are firmly committed to increase the local manufacturing component of such products in the future.
"It is important to note that since last year, SARU has been in constant engagement with the South African Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) on the issue of our product and manufacturing plans for this important year, including SARU’s local procurement strategy post 2011.
"SACTWU have not expressed any concerns to date regarding SARU’s proposal and appear to have been satisfied as to the rationale provided in the split between the local and imported product in our market.
"Our approach on this matter has always been open and transparent, as is evident in our discussions with the textile industry, and we will continue to do so in the future."
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