Caren Lee

Interview conducted 2016

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Caren Lee is a 26 year old learner examiner at Pep Clothing.

She has been at the company since 2014.

She is a young mother who fell pregnant at the age of 19. She failed grade 10 and then stopped going to school.

Caren-Lee started working at Bonwit in 2008 for 6 months while she was pregnant and stopped close to her time of delivery. After she gave birth, she looked for a job but was unable to secure employment for three years. At this time, she relied solely on her parent’s financial assistance since her child’s father did not support her.

After three years of being unemployed, she saw a newspaper advertisement that the company Peter Blond was hiring. She applied for a job and was employed as a marker and designs assistant until she was retrenched in 2013. She searched for a job for another year and a half with no success. It was only in 2014 that she was employed at Pep Clothing as a learner examiner.

Caren Lee lives in Belhar, Extention 13 with her parents who are both pensioners receiving the pension grant.

They live in a three bedroom house that is owned by her parents. Her mother used to work as a fuser in the cutting room at Bonwit but has since retired. Currently, Caren Lee earns R 639 per week, her seven year old child receives social grant of R 330 a month. He goes to school at Riebeeck primary school; a government funded school where parents do not need to pay school fees. The free schooling assists her in decreasing her monthly costs. The school is located behind their home, so it is a walking distance for her son. After school, his grandparents look after him until she returns form work.

Caren Lee was first runner up in SACTWU’s Got Talent in 2014.

She says that at first, she was shy and did not think she would be able to perform in front of a crowd of people but the support that she received from SACTWU and her fellow workers motivated her to face her fears. In the competition she got to share the stage with other talented contestants and learned the value of believing in herself and in her talent. She now wishes to motivate other young people to not let fear or their current circumstances prevent them from pursing their dreams.

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Caren Lee will be getting married in September 2016, she saved the majority of her prize money towards paying for her wedding. She says that this money will help her start the new chapter of her life with her husband and son.  

Caren Lee wishes to one day become a social worker in the police service, she plans on returning to school, getting her matric and training to become part of the police force. Being a social worker will enable her to work with young talented children in the community and help them nurture and improve their talents.

Caren-Lee’s company, Pepclo, demonstrates what can be possible if business and labour seek creative partnerships to build growth on decent work. In this regard, the company has recently concluded an agreement with the union to increase productivity by introducing an extra night shift.

Night shift work can be problematic in the clothing sector because of XXX.

However creative and collaborative solution-finding between stakeholders in Pepclo ensured that workers felt their rights were protected in this project, and the result is that 400 new jobs were created, with possibly more being created in the future.