IUF Sugar / FAWU workshop on Wage Negotiations
On 25 & 26 May twenty-two FAWU representatives, including 14 sugar shop-stewards, met to review the current negotiations in the sugar sector, in the context of the IUF Global Sugar project in East and Southern Africa.
Sector negotiations take place at the level of South Africa’s Sugar Bargaining Council, where representatives from the workers (three unions) and the employers agree on wages and basic terms and conditions. As this is written (15 June), the process appears to be heading towards a conciliation phase with an increment in wages being the main issue: workers are demanding a 13 percent increase compared to the employers’ offer of 4.5 percent.
The workshop dealt with a relevant issue for workers, namely Wage Parity, which means that all employees in one category should be paid the same rate, using the sugar refinery rates as benchmark. FAWU membership faces a great challenge as they fall in categories from A1 to B5 (Patterson scale) and tend not to be paid the same rate. According to the workshop, the Parity issue can be easily resolved if employers make a one-time payment to harmonise rates rather than continue with the present policy of allocating the equivalent of one percent of the negotiated wage increase towards obtaining Parity among all workers in the same category.
The workshop also reviewed some main clauses in the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiated in the Bargaining Council, which covers sugar manufacturers and refiners, but not cane growers. The Council is financed by contributions from unions and employers according to the number of members in the former and the employed labour force in the latter.
Also important was a discussion on basic strategies to strengthen FAWU membership in the sector, which included a presentation of new services being introduced by the union (health care, funeral benefits, etc.) and the improvement of shop-stewards’ contacts with the members. In this context, the workshop agreed to a thorough review of the terms and conditions under the CBA and the development of representation skills of shop-stewards, tasks deemed necessary to improve areas such as health and safety and to establish a more comprehensive approach to negotiations, which have focused mostly on wages.
A representative of the Sugar Association of South Africa gave an overview of the national sugar situation and policy, while a delegate from Mozambique’s SINTIA spoke of the wage negotiations in the sugar sector of her country, which is dominated by Illovo Sugar and Tongaat Hulett, South African companies.
Negotiations in Mozambique’s Maragra and Swaziland’s Ubombo Ranches
Following the FAWU workshop, the IUF Global Sugar Coordinator visited the Mozambican sugar workers union, SINTIA, which had agreed to a 21 percent wage increase with the sugar producers association, APAMO. Negotiations then moved to the local level, where the union committees and management deal with the specific circumstances of each company operation. A visit to the SINTIA Maragra union committee took place while the union was in the sixth round of talks, without the parties having reached an agreement. The IUF Global Sugar Coordinator also visited the Ubombo Ranches branch of the Swazi Agricultural Plantation Workers Union (SAPWU), which was also involved in negotiations. At the moment of writing, no agreement had been reached. The two operations, Maragra and Ubombo Ranches, are Illovo Sugar subsidiaries.
Unions in the South Group of the IUF Global Sugar project in East and Southern Africa have proposed a women workers’ workshop supported by FAWU and a visit to the sugar industry in Swaziland, activities to be held in the second half of 2011.