Over 85 sugar delegates of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) along with international delegates and invitees met for the first-ever FAWU Sugar Conference on 02-04 February 2015 in Durban, under the theme: “Consolidate, deepen unity and accelerate sugar workers’ struggles towards achieving radical economic transformation.” The delegates represented FAWU sugar workplace union committees from the South African provinces of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga as well as FAWU staff.
The Conference reviewed and took important decisions on some of the main issues affecting the sugar workers, and strived for outlining a work program for a sustainable transformation of the South African sugar sector.
The conference recommended:
- To focus on recruitment programs, specifically targeting the sugar cane growing and cutting, which are the basic initial steps in sugar production, and continuing calling for the inclusion of farm workers in the South African Sugar Bargaining Council.
- To study ownership patterns, controls, and beneficiary groups of the Sugar Industry as FAWU moves forward with the sector’s radical transformation, while strongly participating in any platform and issues relating to the use of land, diminishing production of other agricultural produce for human consumption and the multi – purpose use of sugar cane, including food production and renewable energy generation (ethanol, cogeneration).
- To advance the coordination among unions to ensure that the rights of workers are respected and that collective bargaining is advanced as a means to ensure positive changes in workers’ conditions and the struggle for decent jobs in the sector; and widening such our solidarity work through the coordination with the IUF Global Sugar Program.
- To set up a consultative forum to deal with Women Workers matters and to ensure that it becomes a central part of FAWU organisational program going forward.
- To call for similar conferences in other sub-sectors in Agriculture, and to call another sugar conference in the next two years.
The IUF Global Sugar project was present through the participation of two women delegates from the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Agricultural Workers (KUSPAW), Miriam Wanyama and Margaret Barasa; the International Director of Unifor from Canada, Annie Labaj, and the IUF Global Sugar Coordinator. The international delegates addressed the conference on the work done by IUF Sugar and KUSPAW and the solidarity support provided by Unifor –and by the Canadian Auto Workers before the constitution of Unifor.