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Cane cutters reject 1c bonus and resign

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By ZWELIHLE SUKATI - SWAZI TIMES -13-Aug-2009

MHLUME – About 196 sugarcane cutters yesterday opted to resign than to accept a daily one cent bonus and E1 wage increment.

The workers were demanding for a salary adjustment of E8 but the Bhefranel Investment Director, Frans Vilane, offered a E1 salary increment plus a one cent bonus for a job well done. After the two parties reached a deadlock in the negotiations, Vilane gave his employees two options, and that was to either accept what his company offered or resign.

The employees during their mass meeting chose the latter. Not even officials from the Labour Department could convince the angry employees. The salary negotiations between the workers and the employer started on Saturday after the employees decided to down tools at the cane fields, demanding E7 on top of the already offered E1 and the one cent bonus.

Per day, the workers are expected to cut about 113 metres of sugarcane by six lines after which they will take home E35 plus E15 allowance. At the end of the day the workers took home E50. Salary reviews for the sugarcane cutters are made every August.

The workers are remunerated monthly and eat at the staff canteen courtesy of the company. The workers expressed their discontent and accused their employers and labour officials of not taking them seriously. They argued that it was an insult for them to be offered a one cent bonus in the face of all the hardship they endure in the line of duty.

“Our lives are always in the line as we have to brave poisonous snakes and the hard conditions we work under,” cried Mfanufikile Maphanga. He has been working in the industry for the past three years. The not so pleased workers took turns relating their frustration. They believed they were not being taken seriously because they were not represented by any union body. They alleged that they were at times forced to work with worn out protective clothing material. This allegation was, however, rubbished by Vilane.

Vilane in an interview confirmed having offered his employees an extra E1. per day as an increment plus the one cent bonus. “They want E7 more and unfortunately that cannot be the case. As of tomorrow (today) I am hiring new staff,” said Vilane. He went on to state that the salary increment was in line with the Regulation of Wages (Agricultural Industry) Order Notice, 2007.


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