ECONOMIC Development Minister Ebrahim Patel will not intervene in the looming strike by 60000 textile workers.
This despite Patel overseeing millions of rands in government rescue packages pumped into clothing and textile factories recently.
Patel warned Parliament's economic development portfolio committee last Friday that employers "should not seek a generalised drop in wages" because then workers would be able to buy far less, which affects the economy.
But he has refused to comment on the looming strike and has referred enquiries about the strike to the Department of Labour.
The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (Sactwu) will finish balloting its members tomorrow and could be on strike 48 hours later for a wage increase of R70 a week.
Patel has led a deal between labour, business and government that made millions available to struggling clothing factories for new machinery and training programmes.
Sactwu researcher Etienne Vlok says companies that comply with labour law and the Bargaining Council's set minimum wages, will receive "government funding equivalent to 10percent of the price they sell the product at, minus the cost of the raw materials".
These companies will become more profitable and better able to pay decent wages, he says.
Vlok says that as part of the government's rescue package, clothing manufacturers can also ask the Industrial Development Corporation to buy a stake in their businesses, rather than go bankrupt.
Buti Manamela, an ANC MP on the economic development committee and the leader of the Young Communist League, says the clothing manufacturers should "pay up".
"We need the bosses to come to the party. We can't have public money pumped into the textile industry while real worker share of income is declining," Manamela says.