Wage negotiations ‘bound by government’ – farming body
De Doorns farmers in the Western Cape comply with sectoral agreements and minimum wages, employer body Agri-Wes Cape has said.
“We cannot have wage negotiations for the mere fact we are bound by government, and sectoral determination and minimum wages are in place,” spokeswoman Portia Adams said yesterday.
“The irony of the whole situation is De Doorns farmers are all paying above minimum wage.”
She said following various protests over labour conditions this week, the labour department had visited the area and did not find any farmer who paid below minimum wage, which amounted to R61.68 a day.
“They couldn’t find anything else [untoward].”
Workers had been gathering on the N1 since Monday.
Various protests had resulted in the setting alight of vineyards, and a number of arrests.
The N1 between Touws River and De Doorns remained closed yesterday as a precautionary measure because of ongoing protests in the area, Western Cape police said.
Adams said the initial protest on Monday was by an unknown group who sourced farm workers.
“Some workers were beaten off farms to join them and threatened. For their own safety, they joined in the protest.”
She said workers were demanding R150 a day in pay, improved living conditions, electricity, an end to illegal evictions, illegal immigrant workers and labour brokers. According to Adams, illegal evictions or immigrants were not applicable to that area.
Talks between parties were set to resume today in the Worcester civic centre.
“Farmers are prepared to listen. We will discuss these things so we can come to some conclusion,” Adams said.
Western Cape premier Helen Zille left De Doorns after a small crowd of people became rowdy during her walkabout in the protest-hit area.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions accused the Democratic Alliance and provincial officials of “politicising” the strike.
“The cat is out of the bag in the Western Cape, where workers now know that the DA supports the farmers’ oppression of them and they are rejecting the DA.
“The MEC of agriculture who went there, went to defend the farmers’ interest and that is why workers asked them to leave and not come back,” provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said.
Ehrenreich said Agri SA had taken a stand against the need for collective bargaining and this had incensed workers.
“Cosatu continues to support the workers’ demand of R150 per day and rejects the R80 offered by the farmers as an insult and return to slave wages.”
The federation called for peaceful protesting and for national Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to intervene.
According to the agriculture department, De Doorns produces table grapes, predominantly for the export market. This industry supports 8 000 full time workers and 8 000 seasonal jobs in the Hex River Valley.