South African sugar workers to down tools over wages

Union demanding 11 per cent increase, higher housing allowance

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) — More than 5,000 workers in the South African sugar industry will embark on a wage strike on May 27, a labour union said, which could place further strain on an industry already struggling with high input costs and low prices.

In their first strike in 17 years, members of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and two smaller unions are demanding a wage increase of 11 per cent and a higher housing allowance, among other demands.

The union was also calling for a sympathy strike from other sugar workers.

"FAWU is mobilising its members in all companies where sugar is utilised as an ingredient and also those sugar plantations and cane cutting for a possible sympathy strike," the union said in a statement.

Companies such as Illovo Sugar and Tongaat Hulett would be affected by the strike.

A spokeswoman from Illovo said the company would know about a final decision to strike by the end of May 26.

"The bargaining council is still in discussions, we have not seen a final decision on the strike," she said.

Depressed global prices for sugar and lower sales as a result of cheap imports cut into the profits of local producers who have been battling high production costs.

Tongaat and Illovo reported sluggish full-year earnings growth on May 26 on the back of weak domestic demand and poor prices.

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