New wage dispute in sugar sector

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IOL bus jun9 Katishi Masemola Independent Newspapers Secretary General of Fawu Katishi Masemola. File photo: Bongiwe Mchunu.

Durban - Days after a wide-ranging sugar sector strike was resolved, the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) said yesterday that it had declared a new dispute.

“Fawu has declared (a) dispute with the South African Sugar Research Institute (which involves 215 workers) and with Illovo Sugar’s seven plantations,” said the union’s general secretary Katishi Masemola.

“Conciliation and mediation processes are expected to follow in a few days.”

The workers had initially downed tools on May 27, demanding a wage increase of 11 percent across the board, a 40-hour work week, and an R800-a-month housing subsidy.

The workers were expected to return to their posts today, following increases of between 8.5 and 10 percent.

But Masemola said some members at the Tongaat-Hulett sugar refinery in Durban were not happy with the settlement.

“They had hoped for at least a 10 percent wage increment across the board.”

Masemola said negotiations would continue.

VIOLENCE

The strike has been largely peaceful, although acts of violence have been reported.

A farmer in Eston, near Camperdown, opened a case of arson and malicious damage to property after 1 000 hectares of sugar cane fields at his Mayfield farm near the Illovo Sugar plantation were set alight.

The farmer, Kim Hein, blamed striking workers and said there had been fires on four occasions.

Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, confirmed the incidents, and said one person had been arrested and was expected to appear in the Camperdown Magistrate’s Court today.

Hein said the fire, which he blamed on “militant” workers, had ripped through his sugar cane fields.

“We know it was not any of our workers because they were all accounted for during the incidents.”

The farmer said the arsonists had set fire to the fields at about midnight.

“It was scary, having to wake up to an attack of that nature and thinking that you might be attacked as well,” said Hein.

Fawu’s provincial secretary, Qinisela Silange, said the union condemned any acts of violence that might have been carried out by any worker during the strike.

“We have not received news of anything regarding these incidents, but they are regrettable and are not condoned by the union.”

The DA meanwhile lashed out at acts of violence, saying that the sugar industry played a key role in KwaZulu-Natal’s economy.

DA spokeswoman Lauren Sile said: “While the DA acknowledges the right of workers to strike, this must take place within the framework of the law.

“We therefore condemn the recent spate of violence and destruction of property.”

 

Hein said he was relieved that the strike had ended because this would bring an end to the “harassment” his business had experienced.

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