Tongaat, workers strike deal

HARARE - Sugar producer Tongaat Hullet (Tongaat) has dangled a six percent wage increase for its workers as the company moves to quell a potentially-damaging industrial action that could result in sugar shortages.

The group’s corporate affairs and communications manager, Adelaide Chikunguru, yesterday told the businessdaily in a telephone interview that while the workers had gone back to work, negotiations were still on-going.

“The agreement was that they get a 5,88 percent increment —  equivalent to $10 for each worker — so that they resume work. Despite this, negotiations are still in progress to meet the demands, but operations are now normal,” she said.

Employees at Zimbabwe’s largest sugar producer downed tools on November 10 last year, demanding an average wage increase of $120, as talks between management and the worker’s union broke down.

After failure to reach an agreement on wage negotiations and a deadlock with the Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Worker’s Union (Zismiwu), the process went for a conciliation process at the ministry of Public Service.

But the conciliation did not resolve the impasse, culminating in the issuance of a certificate of no settlement.

“Following the certificate, the issue should have gone through arbitration and if not, resolved through the Labour Court.

“However, the union abandoned this process and elected to give the employer a 14-day notice to strike on November 10, 2015,” Chikunguru said in an earlier interview.

While the sugar producer had applied for a Show Cause Order and Disposal Order, the ministry of Public Service did not immediately issue the application and in the absence of ministerial intervention, the organisation pursued a High Court Interdict to stop the strike.

Industry experts assert that with a $170 minimum wage being offered by Tongaat was among the highest in the industry.

The workers, represented by Zismiwu president Freedom Mudungwe, however, alleged that Tongaat employees at the group’s units in Zambia and South Africa are paid more than double what their Zimbabwean counterparts are getting.

Tongaat’s operating profit for the half-year to September 2015 declined to $19 million compared to $32 million recorded in the same period last year.

The sugar producer also reported an interim drop in diluted headline earnings per share of 13,6 percent to 584,8 cents for the period ended September 30, 2015.

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