Africa: Unions in Illovo finalise agreements

After a conciliation meeting on 5 May, the Sugar Plantation Workers Union of Malawi (SPAWUM) reached an agreement on an 8 percent wage increase across the board with Illovo Sugar (Malawi), covering some 2,500 union members in the Categories A1 to C3 in the Patterson scale. The wage increase is in effect from 1 April 218 to 31 March 2019.

The new hourly rates range from the equivalent of 28 US cents/hour in Category A1 to USD 1.60 in Category C3. (USD 1.00=MWK 717.00) Other benefits were adjusted accordingly. For instance, meal allowance ranges from USD 2.67 (Category “A”) to 4.20 (Category “C”); annual leave grants from USD 11.50 to 34.00 and hardship loans from USD 27.80 (“A”) to 55.70 (“C”) to be repaid in 4 months at an interest of 3 percentage points below the National Bank of Malawi. Ordinary overtime is paid at 1.5 times, while double pay for work on Sundays and Holidays.

The Swaziland Agriculture Agricultural, Plantation & Allied Workers Union (SAPAWU) negotiated at Illovo’s Ubombo Sugar, signing an agreement on 10 July for a wage increase of 6.5 percent across the board, and other allowances. For instance, tool allowance was agreed on a range from Swazi Lilangeni (SWL) 1,200 to 1,700, according to category, (USD 1.00 = SZL 13.90); a 25 kg of sugar allowance (three months plus December); contributions to providence fund (SNPF) of SWL 50/month for returning seasonal workers. At the peak of the season, there are 2,300 workers in Ubombo. (SAPAWU also negotiated a 7 percent wage increase at two cane growing operations: Crookes Brothers Ltd. that employs about 450 workers, and with the South Africa-based Tongaat Hulett Sugar, with close to 900 workers.)

The Tanzania Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (TPAWU) signed on 15 May an agreement at Illovo’s Kilombero Sugar with a 5.7 percent increase across the board, covering some 5,000 employees.

The National Union of Plantation, Agricultural and Allied Workers of Zambia (NUPAAW) negotiated a 7.6 percent wage increase across the board, and an increase of 6.5 percent in education allowance. Latest figures put labour in Zambia Sugar at 1,700 permanent workers and some 3,500 seasonal workers.

The Sindicato Nacional dos Trabalhadores da Indústria do Açúcar (SINTIA) represents workers in Maragra Sugar, an Illovo subsidiary in Mozambique. Negotiations first take place at national level, and then are brought to the company level.

All above-mentioned unions are IUF affiliates and maintain contacts with the IUF Global Sugar and Palm Oil coordinator. It is understood that terms and conditions of employment will be negotiated in 2019.

A former affiliate, the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) from South Africa, participates in the Bargaining Council for the Sugar Manufacturing and Refining Industry that comprises representatives of three unions and seven employers, including Illovo Sugar. Wage negotiations under the Council reached a 7.5 wage increase across the board.

Illovo Sugar is the largest sugar company in Africa, operating in six countries in the continent. In 2016, Associated British Foods (ABF) became the sole owner of Illovo. ABF, a giant company operating in the food, ingredients and retail sectors of some 48 countries, owns British Sugar, the only sugar beet processor in the UK.

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    • Miriam Wanyama on August 12, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    This is great bearing in mind that the system used to reward is the best. (In Kenya) private sugar companies are doing fine compared to Government owned. The only thing is that Trade unionists should be more vigilant because labour laws are eroded.

    • Miriam Wanyama on August 13, 2018 at 6:52 am

    Bravo to the unions. This is great, but the same unions should ensure that the labour laws are not interfered with. Privately-owned companies are known for maximising profits at the expense of the health and safety of workers.

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