South Africa: Victory for Sun International workers

Issue 

The article below is abridged from a statement by the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) on the ending of its seven-week industrial dispute with hotel and gambling company Sun International.

The hotel industry workers were fighting for a 13% pay rise, among other demands including the right to keep all tips received while working. It is reprinted from Unionbook.org.

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After a brave and bruising strike by more than 4500 workers since December 4, SACCAWU and Sun International reached an agreement to end of the strike. Workers are expected to return from January 26.

This strike was marked by an extreme intransigence on the side of the company, coupled with violence from police and private security on the picket-line. This included racist and sexist insults, extreme provocations, assaults as well as arrests of numerous strikers, a full-time shop steward and a union official.

Despite all these provocations, workers remained united and determined, continuing their strike over the festive season throughout January as schools reopened. Despite all these pressures on working-class families, the strikers remained united.

This unity of the striking workers was further boosted by the solidarity from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, especially by the COSATU North West Province and Moses Kotane Local.

The morale of the striking workers was further boosted by the international solidarity and the Labour Start campaign that resulted in thousands of letters from unionists and the public from all over the world sent to Sun International management.

SACCAWU and the striking workers wish to acknowledge and express our gratitude for the solidarity, on the picket-line, in the communities and internationally, that played an important role in keeping the unity and building the morale of striking workers throughout the strike.

While not all the demands of the striking workers were met, the significance of the victory should not be underestimated. Due to the drawn out nature of the dispute, and the since we are once again on the eve of wage negotiations, the union felt it was a strategic necessity to enter into a two-year agreement, which was accepted by both parties.

The agreement reached covers the following:
• Extension of collective bargaining unit to a range of supervisory categories previously excluded. Housekeeping supervisors will also benefit from the 2009/2010 wage increases;
• the current minimum will increase from R66,479 to R72,295.91 from July 2009;
• an across the board increase of 8.75% effective from July 1, 2009;
• back pay to workers from July 2009 will be paid to workers not later than January 31;
• shift allowances will be increased to R3 per hour from July 1, 2009;
• home ownership subsidy scheme limit shall be increased from R100,000 to R135,000;
• employees with at least two years service shall qualify for a 30% subsidy, as opposed to the previous limit of five years service; and
• educational assistance shall increase from R5000 to R8000.
The issues of averaging of hours of work and scheduling of permanent staff and other unresolved matters will be explored in future negotiations, with the union reserving its right to pursue the legal route.

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