Farm workers from Robertson block a national road during protests against low wages. (Jaco Marais)
Cape Town - Many farmers are already paying much higher wages to farmworkers and are committed to improve living circumstances on farms for farmworkers, the multi-sectoral business organisation AHi said on Monday.
The Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut (AHi), one of four major chamber organisations in South Africa, said any strike now is therefore unnecessary and will not solve the grievances of farmworkers, but will in effect worsen it.
AHi CEO Christo van der Rheede called upon both farmer and farmworker representatives to continue engaging each other in a construtive manner to resolve the labour crisis on farms in the Western Cape.
The AHi said the economy is under severe strain and "we cannot allow this situation to deteriorate due to strikes".
The AHi cited among other factor the disappointing third quarter GDP rates as an indicator of serious economic problems in the forseeable future.
"The slowdown in economic growth is not only due to the local labour unrest, but is also a reflection of our weakening export markets in the euro zone and China.
"Indications are that the economy may show negative growth in the fourth quarter due to the continuing problems in the mining and agricultural sectors, which can lead to a slowdown to even less than 2.5%," said Ulrich Joubert, independent economist and member of the AHi's National Council.
The AHi warned that this may lead to further job losses and the resultant lower levels of disposable income in the rest of the year and in 2013.
"This weakening tendency in the economy points to the fact that interest rates cannot be increased in the coming year – even if the inflation rate should rise above the 6% targeted by the authorities," cautioned Joubert.
The AHi said it is concerned about the possible large scale mechanisation of farming practices in order to reduce input cost, such as labour costs.
"This will lead to large scale job losses amongst farm workers," warned Van der Rheede.
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