Victory for sugar workers in South Africa & Swaziland will have global impact
I reported on 21 June that sugar workers in Swaziland were on strike, and am glad to be able to update that the strike has now been settled, with a 10% wage rise and non-pay demands met.
But this goes wider than a single strike victory, welcome though that was.
Sugar prices worldwide are likely to rise in line with massively increased demand over the next few years (mostly due to more consumers having the money to buy sweeter, ‘luxury’ foods.)
This means sugar producers like Tate & Lyle and Associated British Foods – the two major UK producers, although Tate & Lyle is now owned by a US multinational – are seeking to maximise their access to the raw materials. And workers in the industry are beginning to flex their muscles and demand a share in the oncoming growth in revenues.
So, the successful strike in Swaziland followed a similar victory for FAWU, the sugar workers’ union in neighbouring South Africa (from whence the Swazi farms are – at least in practice – run.) And, emboldened by the strike at Tongaat Hulett, workers at United Plantations, also in Swaziland, took strike action as well.
This is what globalisation looks like in the sugar industry, and it shows that unions, too, can globalise their representation and wage bargaining.