S. Africa's sugar workers call indefinite strike

By Hassan Isilow, Tuesday, May 27, 2014

JOHANNESBURG – Workers in South Africa's sugar industry on Tuesday will begin an open-ended strike to demand 11-percent wage increases and permanent employment for all fixed-term and other contract workers.

"Some 5530 workers will commence [the] strike action on May 27. It will involve the entire sugar-milling and refining value-chain," Katishi Masemola, general secretary of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), told Anadolu agency on Monday.

He said the strike would remain in effect until the employers resolved the wage dispute.

The strike will be in KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga where the sugar manufacturing takes place.

The union has been negotiating for increase with the sugar manufacturers who are offering 8.5-percent salary raises, but the workers are demanding 11 percent.

Workers are also demanding monthly housing subsidies of 800 rand (roughly $70) and a 40-hour work week.

"The last strike was in 1997," Enock Dlomo, the national sugar sector organizer at FAWU, told AA by phone from Durban.

FAWU is also mobilizing members in all companies in which sugar is utilized as an ingredient – as well as those in sugar plantations and cane cutting – for a possible solidarity strike in tandem with the 5530 striking sugar workers.

South Africa's main sugar producing regions are KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

Sugar is manufactured by six South African milling companies with 14 mills operating in the cane-growing regions.

South Africa's major sugar producers are Tongaat Hulett, Illovo Sugar and TSB Sugar.

According to the South African Sugar Association, the industry produces an estimated average of 2.2 million tons of sugar per season.

The Association says about 60 percent of this sugar is marketed in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) while the rest is exported to markets in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

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