Workers in the sugar mills and refineries might have to wait longer before getting the much-needed relief after unions; FAWU and UASA, declared a deadlock in the ongoing wage negotiations, which started in the month of March in Durban, KwaZulu Natal.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), with at least a third of the unionised workers, is calling the employer to return to the negotiating table so issues that matter to workers can be addressed.

The industry reached a deadlock with majority unions over wage demands and housing allowances. The Unions are demanding among others increments in wages and housing allowances.

AMCU, which believes this impasse can be resolved has since been sidelined by the National Bargaining Council for the Sugar Manufacturing and Refining Industry a move the Union’s National Treasurer, Cde Jimmy Gama, has described as unprecedented as “it has never happened in the industry”.

Cde Gama told AMCU Voice that the industry “can afford most of the demands being tabled as it was making huge profits compared to many sectors.”

Now the matter is headed for the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and AMCU believes this route might turn to be disastrous for workers.

“If this matter proceeds to the CCMA, the commissioner who will be chairing the dispute will attempt to bring parties together to resolve the matter. [This route will] never work in favour of the worker but for the industry as it has always been the case,” warned Cde Gama.

According to industry records, the sector generates R12 billion annually through direct income.

The South African sugar industry is “cost-competitive, consistently ranking in the top 15 out of approximately 120 sugar producing countries worldwide,” according to the South African Sugar Association (SASA).

The industry makes an important contribution to employment and sustainable socio-economic development, particularly in rural areas.

“The sugar industry creates approximately 79 000 direct jobs, which represents over 11% of the total agricultural workforce in South Africa. In addition, there are the registered cane growers supplying cane for processing to sugar mills. Indirect employment is estimated at 350 000 jobs,” SASA claims in one of its reports.

“This [industry] is built on its agricultural and industrial investments, foreign exchange earnings, labour intensity, and linkages with major suppliers, support industries and customers.

While the industry and bosses will continue to rake in obscene profits and bonuses, workers remain trapped in apartheid style slave wages that can hardly take them from month to month.