A strike at Illovo Sugar had been averted after workers accepted a wage offer from the company, the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) said yesterday. The strike would have involved 1 300 workers, general secretary Katishi Masemola said. The agreement included a 10 percent increase for the lowest-paid workers, 9.5 percent for the middle salary band, and 9 percent for the highest band. “We are aware that some of our members had hoped for at least a 10 percent – double-digit – wage increment across the board but encouraged them to accept the structured agreement, which will push the lowest paid to receive a slightly higher percentage increase and reduce [the] rand-value wage gap between workers,” Masemola said. Early last month Fawu declared a dispute with the SA Sugarcane Research Institute, which involved 215 workers at Illovo Sugar’s seven plants. This was after a wide-ranging strike by around 5 500 sugar refining and milling workers, mostly Fawu members, had been resolved after a settlement agreement was reached. A 10 percent increment was secured for the sugar industry’s lowest-paid workers, with a 9 percent increase for the middle band, and 8.75 percent for the higher band. The workers had downed tools on May 27, demanding a wage increase of 11 percent across the board, a 40-hour working week, and a housing subsidy of R800 a month. Masemola said yesterday that Fawu had called on employers to engage with the union on other issues if they wanted to avoid a strike in the 2015 bargaining season. These concerns included benefits and working conditions and health and safety. Illovo shares fell 21c to close at R29.19 yesterday. – Sapa