Tongaat Hulett appeals to Supreme Court over strike

SUGAR producer Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe says it is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on the collective job action that started last week.

Tongaat Hulett corporate affairs and communications manager Adelaide Chikunguru said: “Tongaat Hulett has appealed to the Supreme Court and awaits Supreme Court ruling”.

She, however, acknowledged that “the job action has been peaceful so far.”

Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Worker’s Union secretary general Tendeukai Chinooneka told Business Chronicle recently that the workers want a minimum wage to be increased to $350 from $170 per month, which would be at par with Tongaat’s subsidiaries in Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique.

The decision by the sugar cane processor followed a number of failed interventions, with the company having failed to reach an agreement on wage negotiations with the Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Worker’s Union. This is despite discussions going to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare for conciliation, after which the union chose to pull out of the arbitration process.

Tongaat Hulett owns Hippo Valley and Triangle estates and sugar mills in Zimbabwe’s lowveld region, which have a combined installed milling capacity in excess of 4,8 million tonnes of cane annually and over 640,000 tonnes of sugar. It is not yet clear how the on-going strike has so far affected (or not) the producer’s sugar output.

The company however maintains that the current minimum wage of $170 is reasonable.

“Tongaat Hulett’s minimum wage of $170 is considered to be among the highest in the agriculture and agro-processing industries. Employees also receive subsidised housing, education, amenities and free health care services,” said Chikunguru. For the full-year to March 31, 2015, the company reported a five percent dip in sugar production to 228,000 tonnes, attributable to reduced cane deliveries from outgrowers and low water supplies. — BH24/Chronicle Business

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