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Coalition: Strike not over

Dec 06 2012 16:25

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Cape Town - The Western Cape farmworker strike about labour conditions is far from over, a coalition claiming to represent farmworkers said on Thursday.

"We reject the 'secret deal' entered into between the African National Congress [ANC] government and the Congress of SA Trade Unions [Cosatu] at the expense of the poor," said Farmworkers' Strike Coalition head Mario Wanza.

"Cosatu did not have a mandate to act on behalf of the coalition and to conclude an agreement in the name of Agri-SA."

The coalition originally consisted of Cosatu, non-unionised workers in Zolani, Bonnievale, De Doorns, Worcester, Robertson and Nkubela, and organisations such as Women on Farms, Sikhula Sonke and the Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry.

However, at a meeting in Stellenbosch on Wednesday evening, the coalition decided to kick out Cosatu, because it had failed to attend meetings.

"People are back at work, but we're now going to all the farming towns and farms to get people prepared, and we will rally on December 16 in Robertson or Worcester, deciding where to go from there," Wanza said.

"We're saying to the ANC and Cosatu: You've missed your opportunity to take people in your confidence. We will fight for society to liberate and embrace the farmworkers."

Unrest in the sector started in early November, with farmworkers demanding an increase in their daily minimum wage from R69 to R150, and improved living conditions.

The protests soon spread to 15 other towns, and left two people dead.

Farmworkers suspended the strike for two weeks to allow the Employment Conditions Commission to review the sectoral determination for agriculture, which stipulates minimum wages, number of leave days, working hours, and termination rules among others.

Many workers resumed striking on Tuesday after Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said it would be impossible to address their demands by their Tuesday deadline.

Cosatu announced on the evening of the strike that it would pursue no further action after it reached an agreement with Agri-SA to conduct negotiations on a farm-by-farm basis.

Talks would be about the R150 a day wage demand and a profit-sharing scheme.

If no agreement was reached by January 9, workers on those farms would strike again.

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said on Wednesday that these farm-to-farm pay talks were a "stop-gap measure" to restore peace until sectoral wage talks in March.

Cosatu's Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich was not immediately available to respond.

He previously said it was Cosatu, and not Wanza's coalition, which represented the majority view of workers in the sector.

cosatu  |  anc  |  wage dispute  |  farmworkers  |  strike
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