Kenana strike ends after workers win some concessions

Workers at Kenana Sugar Company have returned to work after more than a month on strike in what has become the longest-running walkout in Sudanese history. An agreement signed off by company representatives, local and national government officials, a senior politician in the Forces of Freedom and Change and two members of the Initiative for Restoring the Engineers’ Union on 20 September announced the end of the strike in return for some concessions to workers’ demands.

According to documents seen by Middle East Solidarity, the deal restored company transport services, promised to activate a committee to look at the cases of workers dismissed for activism in the revolutionary movement and agreed to cancel all salary cuts and outstanding disciplinary warnings and suspensions.

Workers’ demands for a pay rise, benefits in retirement and for company investment in health and education services did not figure in the agreement, which also recognised the formation of a new steering committee for the workers’ union. The government’s “Empowerment Committee” which is overseeing the removal of old regime figures from business and public services has already moved to set up the new steering committee, although its representatives don’t appear to have been important enough to have signed off the deal to end the strike.

According to eyewitness reports and video from Kenana, the deal was not welcomed by all the strikers. Minister of Industry Madani Abbas Madani was heckled by angry workers as he presented the agreement to the sit-in, and later that evening hundreds of workers paraded through the town in a cavalcade of cars and marchers chanting against the managing director. The resignation of the director and his deputy was right at the top of the strikers’ original list of demands, followed by a call to purge the company of the remnants of the old regime.

No representatives of striking workers seem to have been present at the meeting which agreed on the return to work, underscoring the fact that the battle for an independent and accountable union remains to be fought.

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