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FAWU bitter about sugar tax

28 November 2016 - 18:08 By Sipho Mabena

Trade union Food and Allied Workers Union has cautioned that their campaign against the proposed sugar tax will not be as sweet if the proposed Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax that has left a bitter taste on the union's palate is not abandoned. The union's top leadership‚ including president Artwell Mazo and General Secretary Ntatishi Masemula‚ on Monday led a handful of its members on a march to the Treasury head office in the Pretoria CBD to voice their displeasure with the so-called sugar tax. Mazo said this was just a warning shot as more was still to come if their demand was not met‚ saying the march was just a beginning of the rolling protests that would be held across the country ahead of next year's budget speech.“This is a build-up to our biggest marches that will be held in major cities Durban‚ Cape Town and Pretoria prior to finance minister (Pravin Gordhan) budget speech‚” he said. In a memorandum handed to a deputy director in the Treasury‚ Lwazi Giba‚ Fawu demanded that Treasury and the health department convene a stakeholder summit on sugar and fat‚ health and jobs in order to deal with causes of obesity and non-communicable diseases‚ necessary health policies and future of jobs before unilaterally implementing sugar tax. The union hoped for the summit to be held as early February.Giba said all he could do was to ensure that the memorandum received the attention it deserved. The union stated in the memorandum that the march was necessitated by the admission from Treasury researchers that up to 6‚000 jobs in the sugar industry food chain were on the line if the tax was introduced. Secretary General Katishi Masemola said it was silly and disingenuous to claim that these jobs would be created elsewhere.“Like it was argued by government before‚ when the Tobacco Laws Amendment Bill‚ later an Act‚ with its accompanying regulations‚ was introduced. We were told of the similar arguments that as people stop or reduce smoking‚ and jobs being lost‚ they will drink more soft drinks and eat more chocolates which will result in jobs created from increased corruption‚ something that has not been scientifically proven to date‚” he said.Masemola said there was also no guarantee that people would cut down on sugary beverages with the introduction of the tax.He said poor people relied on fatty chicken skins‚ the meat parts that rich people avoided for health reasons‚ for survival.“Millions of people buy chicken skins because they have no choice. Will government introduce fat tax to discourage the poor from turning to the chicken skins? We support a healthy nation but not job losses. Educate the nation on health‚ do not tax jobs away‚” Masemola pleaded.Fawu president Artwell Mazo said this could not be‚ in a country with an unemployment rate of over 40%.He said they were disappointed with the low turnout for the march but blamed this on “bosses who refused to release workers to protect their jobs”The union gave Treasury until December 7 to respond...

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