The Jewellery Council of South Africa (JCSA) is appealing to the government to consider lifting all restrictions on the industry, or at least allow e-commerce sales.
In the letter to co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the council said the unrecoverable loss and possible collapse of the industry under an extended lockdown will not only affect those who are employed in it, but also prospective jewellers.
â€œEmployees are dependent on the business recovering soonest. With us finding ourselves in the watch and jewellery business, we are potentially more exposed to anticipated declines in economic activity and we will require a longer runway than other, higher demand fast-moving consumer goods to give our business an opportunity for survival and sustainability, reads the letter.
Signed by Lorna Lloyd, CEO of JCSA, the letter requested that the ban be lifted with immediate effect.
Failure to do so will cause irreparable harm to this industry, from which it will not recover. Reasonable sanitation requirements shall be adhered to at all times.
Under level 4 lockdown, jewellery manufacturers are permitted to operate at 30% capacity.
In terms of social distancing in the workplace, it should be noted that the layout within a manufacturing environment and the size of a jewellery workbench naturally cater for the required social distancing, Lloyd said.
She argued that many employees are industry specialists â€œwith few other employment opportunities.
The financial effect of these employees not being able to work from home is affecting approximately 8,000 people employed in the greater jewellery industry, Lloyd said.
The JCSA represents 243 manufacturer members, 200 retailers, 145 wholesalers and 22 service members, it said.
In line with our strategy of empowering our youth and creating opportunities for unskilled and less skilled persons to grow and develop, 85% of our workforce consists of individuals under the age of 50, of whom 32% are under 30.
These individuals and their families will be hardest hit by prolonged layoffs and restructuring, with many at the stage of life that poses significant financial commitments and demands, the letter said.
The JCSA said as e-commerce is permitted for manufacturing under level 4, it is imperative that wholesalers and retailers are able to partake on this platform. This will create much-needed revenue without compromising the risk-adjustment strategy.
The organisation is appealing for the government to â€œmove the retail and wholesale value chain into line with manufacturing.