TONGAAT Hulett took a knock in March, with its shares plummeting nearly 30 percent in one day. Supplied

JOHANNESBURG  - The Food and Allied Workers' Union (FAWU) in KwaZulu-Natal said on Thursday it was "extremely concerned" about the plight of farm workers amid the prospect of looming retrenchments in the sugar industry. 

Sugar producer Tongaat Hulett confirmed last week that retrenchment letters had been issued to their employees as part of a restructuring process which will affect about 5,000 employees.

Hulett said permanent and temporary employees across Tongaat Hulett operations in six Southern African Development Community countries would be affected.

The sugar industry is facing serious challenges as it is planning to retrench workers from farms and millings at both Illovo and Hulett. 

Earlier this year, the South African Canegrowers Association met with the trade and industry portfolio committee to raise concerns about the crisis in the sugar industry.

In a statement, FAWU also said that workers are faced with retrenchments at sweetened beverages company Coca-Cola South Africa, where almost 1,073 employees are facing the chop.

"On a daily basis we are told about progress in the economy and transformation in agriculture. Yet conditions of employment, particularly wages, health and safety are largely neglected and no benefits plus threats of retrenchments," it said.

"No union or members can agree in compromising their lives. FAWU in KwaZulu-Natal is extremely concerned with unhealthy conditions to which many workers in sugar industry farm workers in particular are subjected."

FAWU said that the continued denial of access to justice, safety, labour unions and security poses a challenge on the constitutional proclamation of equality for all citizens. 

- African News Agency (ANA)