Sugar work­ers to strike over wage of­fer

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Mfu­neko Toy­ana

AROUND 1 000 work­ers at sugar pro­ducer Illovo are set to go on strike over wages and other ben­e­fits af­ter talks with em­ploy­ers broke down, the trade union rep­re­sent­ing the staff said yes­ter­day.

“The Food and Al­lied Work­ers Union (Fawu) and em­ploy­ers from eight Illovo farms in KwaZulu-Na­tal have failed to reach an am­i­ca­ble agree­ment un­der the aus­pices of the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion (CCMA) and a strike cer­tifi­cate has been is­sued,” a Fawu state­ment said.

The CCMA is a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion body man­dated by law to me­di­ate labour dis­putes.

Illovo is a wholly-owned sub­sidiary of London-listed As­so­ci­ated Bri­tish Foods and op­er­ates in South Africa, Mozam­bique, Tan­za­nia, Malawi, Zam­bia and Swazi­land.

The labour dis­pute comes as the South African econ­omy is in re­ces­sion for the first time since 2009 be­cause of weak­ness in man­u­fac­tur­ing and trade.

There is also grow­ing op­po­si­tion in the coun­try to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, whose de­ci­sion in March to fire fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han trig­gered credit down­grades by all three ma­jor credit rat­ing agen­cies.

Fawu mem­bers are seek­ing a 10 per­cent wage in­crease, ver­sus the 5 per­cent an­nual rise the union says em­ploy­ers are of­fer­ing, as well as pen­sion ben­e­fits for both full-time and sea­sonal work­ers.

In­sult

“That 5 per­cent is an in­sult. If you look at what the in­fla­tion rate has been since De­cem­ber, it would mean work­ers are toil­ing for noth­ing,” provin­cial Fawu or­gan­iser Au­gust Mb­hele said.

Mb­hele said the low­est paid work­ers on sugar cane farms earned around R2 752 monthly, and that most lived more than 30km away from the farms and strug­gled to find or af­ford trans­port.

Illovo was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment.

Agri­cul­ture ac­counts for less than 5 per­cent of South Africa’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct but was one of two ar­eas to show growth when the econ­omy slipped into re­ces­sion. – Reuters

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