The Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) has called for clear policy from government to prevent imminent job losses in the sugar cane sector, caused mainly by the sugar tax and dumping of sugar from Brazil.
Those in the sector are concerned about the future of the industry after some beverage companies threatened retrenchments due to the high cost of production.
A parliamentary discussion on the matter called by the Democratic Alliance was allegedly frustrated by ANC members of parliament, assisted by an abstention by the Economic Freedom Fighters on Tuesday.
The DA called for a joint committee discussion and parliamentary debate after DA chief whip John Steenhuisen and the party’s shadow minister for trade and industry Dean Macpherson met small-scale farmers and sugar cane stakeholders who painted a grim picture in terms of job losses in the sector.
Steenhuisen said they wanted to hear first-hand how a number of government actions and inactions had brought the sugar cane industry to its knees.
Macpherson condemned the ANC MPs on the portfolio committee on trade and industry who voted down the DA’s request for a joint meeting to find solutions to the problem.
“What these MPs have proven today is that they have no interest in the plight of 350,000 people,” Macpherson said.
Steenhuisen said at the very heart of this crisis is the ANC’s unwillingness to listen to sugar industry experts.
“When the sugar tax was first mooted, industry experts warned this would lead to job losses. So far, 1,000 jobs have already been lost in the sector and this figure is climbing,” he said.
Yesterday Fawu’s general secretary Katishi Masemola called for a moratorium on the implementation of the sugar tax because it was killing the sector. The trade union leader said soft drink manufacturer Coca-Cola promised to lay off more than 1,000 employees due to the sugar tax.
A study commissioned by the department of trade and industry prior to the sugar tax warned that between 5,000 and 8,000 jobs would be affected.
Masemola said despite their call for government to stave off the problem, there had been indifference on the part of Pretoria.