Just 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 SA Sugar Research Institute, which involves 215 workers, and with Illovo Sugar’s seven plantations,” Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola said.

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

Sugar companies including Tongaat-Hulett, Illovo and TSB Sugar Holdings would be able to make up for the loss in production caused by a two-week strike by workers, Barry Lane, the chairman of the Sugar Milling and Refinery Employers Association, said on Friday. “We will need to start as soon as possible for workers to catch up as the season is ahead of us. But there is an opportunity to make up for the loss.”

About 5 530 workers at sugar refineries and mills went on strike to push their demand for a 11 percent wage increase. Other demands included a 40-hour work week and an R800 a month housing subsidy.

Workers belonging to Fawu, the National Sugar Refining and Allied Industries Union and Uasa had picketed outside their employers’ gates in 13 stations for the past two weeks. Workers held a peaceful march in Durban on Thursday.

Following interventions by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and political leaders in KwaZulu-Natal, sugar industry employers were able to agree to a 10 percent increase for A-band workers and a 9 percent hike for B-band workers while workers in the higher-grade C-band received an 8.75 percent increase.

Last week Tongaat Hulett had offered workers an 8.5 percent increase across board.

The company previously stated that it had spare capacity and if required it would extend its milling season in order to ensure that production for the year was not affected.

Lane said the increase was effective from April 1, meaning that all workers would need to be back-paid. “All the administrative work regarding this will be taken care of in due course,” Lane said.

The employers’ association, unions and KwaZulu-Natal political leaders including MEC for Economic Development Mike Mabuyakhulu and MEC for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs Cyril Xaba were locked in talks on Thursday and Friday. Negotiations were also joined by national Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies.

Masemola said workers were expected to report for work as early as today.