Johannesburg - The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) hoped the strike in the sugar sector, which moved into its second day on Wednesday, would send a signal to employers to come to the negotiating table.

Enoch Dlomo, the union's national sugar sector organiser, said it was too early to say how effective the strike had been, but they hoped it could be resolved in a speedy manner.

“It's too early to say. It is because our intention is too have a strong strike so they (the employers) will quickly come back to request a meeting to resolve the strike,” he said.

A total of 5,530 workers have gone on strike, with 2,780 being members of Fawu.

The other 2,750 workers were members of either the National Sugar Refining and Allied Industries Union, the Union of Artisans of SA, or were not affiliated to any union.

They are seeking an 11.5 percent wage increase across the board, plus a R400 top-up for both A-band and B-band workers.

However, on Monday, Tongaat Hulett said workers were demanding a 10.5 percent increase.

“A-band is the lowest of all the bands within the sugar industry, as well (as) the B-band, at the lowest level of pay,” said Dlomo.

Strikers also sought a 40-hour work week without loss of pay, an R800 housing subsidy, and permanent employment of all fixed-term and other contract workers.

“The workers in these positions are occupying permanent positions, so they should be employed as such. There is no benefit from fringe benefits, (such as) medical aid etc,” Dlomo said.

He said if employers came up with an offer, it would be sent to the union members.

“If they come up with an offer, we can send it to members, they can make a decision. It's not up to us as officials to dictate what the members do. The decision lies with the members.”

On Monday, Tongaat Hulett said it offered an 8.5 percent increase, and that employees from the sugar manufacturing and refining sectors were involved in discussions with company executives to find a solution.

On Wednesday the Business Report said operations at the company had stopped, and that Illovo Sugar's operation had also been affected.

The companies could not be reached for comment. - Sapa