Walter Mswazie Masvingo Correspondent
STRIKING Tongaat Hulett workers in Chiredzi have returned to work after a four week-long strike over wage increments, following intervention by the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Prisca Mupfumira. The strike had resulted in panic buying of sugar as people feared it might be in short supply over the festive period.
The 16,000 workers went on strike early this month demanding a salary increment to $350 from $170, in line with what other Tongaat Hulett employees in the region are earning.
The company has operations in Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique. In a statement, Tongaat Hulett corporate affairs and communication manager Adelaide Chikunguru said the job action ended on Thursday last week.
“Further we’re pleased to advise our valued stakeholders that the collective job action was terminated on December 18 and all employees have returned to work,” said Chikunguru.
“In line with the agreed terms to terminate the strike, negotiations with employees’ representatives, Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Workers’ Union (ZISMIWU) will resume as soon as possible and are expected to be concluded amicably.”
“Sugar and ethanol supplies to the market have also resumed at an accelerated rate and there are sufficient stocks to meet the demand during the festive period.”
ZISMIWU Secretary General Tendeukai Chinoneka confirmed that workers resolved to call off the job action after the union had received communication from Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Ministry.
Chinoneka, however, said the issue is far from over as they are not in agreement with the employer. He said the employer has tabled a six percent salary increase ($10), as the basis for negotiations but the union feels the offer is too little, although they have allowed sanity to prevail.
“I can confirm that workers have resolved to call off the strike after we received communication from Ministry of Public Service and Social Welfare on Thursday last week. However, there’s no agreement in terms of increment,” said Chinoneka.
He noted that there are a lot of sticking issues over the workers’ welfare. “We hope that the negotiation process will resume soon since there’s still a lot to be discussed with the employer. We feel that the offer is too little as we benchmark our demands with what’s earned regionally and what the company realises per year as profit,” he said.
Workers’ earnings, he said should be commensurate with what the companies get at the end of the year.