Johannesburg - A strike at Illovo Sugar was averted after workers and the company reached a wage agreement, the Food and Allied Workers' Union (Fawu) said on Tuesday.

“A possible strike action has been averted in the Illovo sugar estates involving 1300 workers following a settlement agreement reached on the 30th June 2014,” Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola said in a statement.

The agreement included a 10 percent increase for the lowest-paid workers, 9.5 percent for the middle salary band, and nine 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 Sugar Research Institute (Sasri) which involved 215 workers at Illovo Sugar's seven plantations.

This was after a wide-ranging strike by around 5500 sugar refining and milling workers, mostly Fawu-affiliates, was resolved after a settlement agreement was reached.

A 10 percent increment was secured for the sugar industry's lowest-paid workers, with a nine percent increase for the middle band, and 8.75 percent for the higher band.

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

monthly housing subsidy.

Masemola on Tuesday said Fawu called on employers to engage with the union on other issues if they wanted to avoid a strike in the 2015 bargaining season.

“Employers must recognise that issues of benefits, such as retirement funds and medical schemes or funeral plans, and issues of working conditions, such as permanent employment of permanent casuals and health and safety, remain critical and core demands for workers,” he said. - Sapa