Thursday, July 10, 2014

"No Better Future For Workers Than Solidarity And Unity"

Victory for sugar workers at Swaziland's Tambankulu Estates but Illovo refuses to settle!

Note from the editors: Illovo is the largest sugar plantation owner in Africa, with plantations in six African countries. The company is at the centre of numerous land conflicts.

Last week we asked you to support the strikes by Swaziland's Agricultural & Plantation Workers' Union (SAPWU) at two major subsidiaries of South African sugar TNCs. Thousands of you responded, and the union won its demands at Tambankulu Estates - a significant victory for rural workers in the country. But management at Illovo's Ubombo is refusing to concede similar demands.

South African-based Illovo, Africa's largest sugar company which boasts of being "one of the world's lowest cost sugar producers", is 51% owned by the UK's Associated British Foods. In Swaziland they are in partnership with the despotic King Mswati III, who has banned political parties and de-registered the country's national trade union center.

Southern Africa's impoverished sugar workers have been rising up for improved living and working conditions. In late May/early June this year, an 11-day strike by the South African Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and two other unions won important wage and non-wage improvements from the country's sugar employers, including Illovo.

The Swazi sugar strike actions have now spread to another company, the citrus and sugar producer United Plantations, which supplies cane to Ubombo/Ilovo. SAPWU is leading the fight against rural poverty in Swaziland.

Illovo, whose Swazi plantation and refining operations are many times greater than Tambankulu Estates, is a hugely profitable company which can at least meet the terms negotiated by the union at a major competitor.


Settlement in Swazi sugar strike brings important gains for workers The three-week strike by the Swaziland Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (SAPWU) has ended with a settlement bringing workers a 10% wage increase and satisfying the union's non-wage demands, including improved benefits for seasonal workers. Over the course of the strike involving some 3,000 workers, union members stood up to intimidation by military and security forces and legal action by the company intended to hamper picketing. Ubombo Sugar, the Swazi subsidiary of South African sugar giant Illovo, is 40% owned by Swaziland's despotic monarch Mswati III. Illovo in turn is 51% controlled by the UK's Associated British Foods (ABF). The union's general secretary Archie Sayed has written that "The workers of Ubombo send their gratitude to all who contributed to their struggle and appreciate the spirit of solidarity which has also come as a lesson to them that there no better future for the workers as solidarity and unity."

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