Strikes Further Delay Processing At Australia's Biggest Sugar Producer

By Reuters
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Strikes Further Delay Processing At Australia's Biggest Sugar Producer

Strikes have again delayed the start of cane processing at Australia's largest sugar producer and more delays are likely due to industrial action planned over the coming days in a battle over wage hikes, the company said.

Wilmar Sugar and Renewables, owned by Singapore-based Wilmar International, said workers would vote on its pay proposal on June 10, but a union representative said the offer was too low and would be rejected.

Workers have already walked out for four 24-hour periods this month and they plan a range of work bans and stoppages extending into early June, a spokesperson for Wilmar said.

Production Season

"Industrial action has already impacted our 2024 sugar production season, with work stoppages over the past two weeks forcing us to further delay the start of production at a number of our factories," they said.

The company has eight mills on Australia's east coast that run 24 hours a day during the cane processing season from June to November, producing over two million tons of raw sugar, more than half of Australia's total.


Processing start dates would be delayed by between six and nine days at six mills and by two days at two mills, the spokesperson said.

"These start dates may push back even further if planned industrial action proceeds," they said.

Wage Increase

Wilmar said it was offering a 14.25% wage increase over three-and-a-half years and a A$1,500 ($1,000) sign-on bonus. Workers are asking for 18% over three years, having initially asked for 25%, said Jim Wilson at the Australian Workers' Union.

Workers reduced their request in an effort to reach a deal that would avoid disruption to the cane crush, growers and supply chains, Wilson said.


"Wilmar has shown their willingness to sacrifice the whole community for their profits by rejecting our proposal," he said. "We will be voting down this deal once again, and Wilmar will be back at square one."

Most of Australia's sugar production is exported.

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