Strike looms in paper sector

The pulp and paper sector may be the next to be hit by industrial action, with workers at Mondi and Sappi threatening to down tools.

The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu) on Wednesday said it had declared a dispute with the two companies after wage negotiations deadlocked.

Negotiations had been taking place in the National Bargaining Council for the wood and paper sectors for the last two months.

The union was demanding a 17% pay hike and the immediate discontinuation of labour brokers, it said in a statement.

The companies were offering a 4,5% pay rise.

“Ceppwawu believes that the offer tabled by the employers is far below inflation rate and therefore seeks to further put our members in a precarious financial position.

“The end result of which is the exacerbation and perpetuation of poverty in the country,” the union said.

It had obtained a certificate from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, allowing workers to down tools within the next 48 hours.

“Employers are encouraged to submit offers that could avert such devastating consequences for the country,” Ceppwawu said.

The union added that it understood the global financial meltdown had a direct impact “on the number of employees that accede to workers’ demands”.

“However, we want to reiterate that it is important for employers to acknowledge the demands of workers and to be prepared to compromise on the demands tabled.

“The union is therefore urging employers to come to the bargaining table or face the alternative, which will be crippling industrial strike action.”

Mondi is an international paper and packaging group with operations in 35 countries and Sappi is a global paper and pulp producer.—Sapa

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