To our readers: a bit out of synch with the roughly biweekly frequency of publication, this issue appears after activities in Uganda, Zambia and South Africa took most of my time in the past month. The silver lining is of course that the quality of the news will improve with more union members getting in direct contact with the IUF Global Sugar Program.
Uganda: SCOUL workers strike Over Pay
Over five hundred workers of the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) in Lugazi went on strike on 3 September pressing for improved working conditions and wage increases. The workers had been concerned that no agreement was in the making, even after more than seven rounds of negotiations where management made no offer of wage increase. The strike was called-off on 4 Sept. with the promise that negotiations will conclude by the end of September. It was unfortunate therefore, says Joyce Tumwesiga, that management then appealed to the police to disperse workers, and two workers were reported as seriously injured. By the end of September, an agreement of a 10 percent wage increase across the board had been reached. (With reports from Joyce Tumwesiga, NUPAW-Uganda.)
Sudan: Kenana Sugar USD 500 million ethanol deal
Kenana Sugar Company is reported to have signed two deals with Brazilian Dedini on machinery and equipment which would allow the company to double production capacity in its ethanol plant and to set up a new biodiesel operation. The agreement includes building infrastructure; and credits have been made available by Brazilian sources.
Dedini supplied equipment for Kenana’s ethanol factory, the first one in Sudan, which exported its first 5 million litres of ethanol to the European Union last December. The country faces market sanctions by the US, but it is expanding its trade with China, India, Brazil and the Middle East, according to a press report from Khartoum.
IUF Global Sugar in Africa: Uganda, Zambia and South Africa
The IUF Global Sugar project in East and Southern Africa held an ICT training program for officials of the three sugar branches of the NUPAW-Uganda, and the union hosted a meeting of the “East Group” in Jinja, which evaluated the impact of the project and discussed and proposed activities for 2011.
Attending the East Group meeting was a delegate from Kenya’s KUSPAW and the unions called for TPAWU-Tanzania not to lag behind in the project, especially taking into account the East African Community process towards integration and free movement of goods and services, and people. (Reports presented by NUPAW-Uganda and KUSPAW-Kenya are available upon request.)
One-week ICT courses for Kakira (5 participants) and Kinyara (6 participants) run from Sept. 27 to Oct. 8, while the one for SCOUL being postponed because repairs to the national grid affected the power supply in the area. (An interim report is available.)
A sugar workshop was held with the National Union of Plantation Agricultural and Allied Workers of Zambia (NUPAAW) from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 in Lusaka. This was the first time that NUPAAW sugar branches got together to review the process of expansion of the country’s sugar sector that, paradoxically, involves a deterioration of terms and conditions of service for workers in the sector. Branch representatives presented detailed reports on the conditions in their respective workplaces, and NUPAAW drafted a sugar work program, focusing on strengthening the union (e.g. women casual workers, joint safety committees), lobbying for changes in labour policies (e.g. the agriculture sector-wide negotiations) and, with the support from the IUF Global Sugar, involving the union in trade talks at government-to-government level (such as the EU assistance to Zambia’s cane and sugar sector) or fair trade schemes. (Copies of reports are available.)
The Zambia activity had two special features. Firstly, there was a working visit to an IUF sugar project’s activity by the Director of the Social Justice Fund of the Canadian Auto Workers (SJF-CAW), which supports the project. This was an occasion to share experiences of the CAW’s international union solidarity work in strengthening of the IUF and its affiliates. Secondly, the workshop was combined with an activity of the IUF Global Sugar Network, with the attendance of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the GMB, a general workers union in the United Kingdom. The IUF Global Sugar Network is a self-financed initiative, focussing now on the EU/ACP sugar trade relations, and based on the long-term work in the English-speaking Caribbean and Africa.
On 4 Oct. the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) from South Africa held an ICT Workshop for Regional Organisers and Sugar Office Bearers of the KwaZulu Natal region (KZN), which also had the participation of the IT Coordinator and the Press Officer from FAWU national office. The workshop heard an overview of the challenges that sugar workers face in South Africa as a result of corporate strategies to move to other African sugar producing countries and the introduction of labour practices such as outsourcing (“labour brokers”). Following the discussion, the workshop learned about FAWU initiatives on IT and how the KZN region, where the country’s cane and sugar production is concentrated, participates in it and the need to share information with FAWU press department. Next, the workshop recommended that in 2011 the IUF Africa Sugar project focuses on negotiations (with unions in Mozambique and Swaziland) and ICT training to complement FAWU’s work.
FAWU keeps surprising me: we attended a COSATU KZN Shop Stewards Council on 3 Oct. With over 300 participants (my estimates), the Council dealt with important issues: the suspended public service strike, which covers over 1 million workers; ANC policy matters, and the call for the nationalisation of mining companies. In addition, the shop stewards were invited to a 24-hr party on 4 Dec. in Johannesburg to celebrate COSATU’s 25th anniversary. Individuals trying to get into the party by themselves, shop stewards were warned, will be turned away at the door, and sent back home to bring their partner and relatives. No excuses.
Africa Sugar Digest is produced thanks to the IUF Global Sugar project in East and Southern Africa. It appears as news becomes available. Contributions are welcome. The IUF African sugar project is supported by the Social Justice Fund of the Canadian Auto Workers (SJF-CAW), with contribution from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through the Labour International Development Program of the Canadian Labour Congress (LIDP-CLC).