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Cosatu to address farmworkers

Dec 04 2012 18:43 Sapa

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Cape Town - An official would be updating farmworkers on labour negotiations in De Doorns on Tuesday afternoon, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the Western Cape said.

Provincial organiser Mike Louw said secretary Tony Ehrenreich planned to report back to workers around 3pm, but no surprise announcements were planned.

"He will be telling them what we have been issuing in statements over the last few days," Louw said.

This meant workers were likely to be told that no monetary offer had been put on the table by farmers during recent negotiations.

Provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa said a few hundred workers had gathered on the De Doorns sport field next to the N1, but no unrest had been reported.

In Barrydale, around 100 farmworkers had gathered opposite a petrol station but were not obstructing roads, he said.

Table grape harvesters started protesting last month in De Doorns, where most workers earned between R69 and R75 a day.

The protests spread to 15 other towns and resulted in two deaths and the destruction of property.

Farmworkers suspended the strike 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.

However, they announced they would resume the strike on Tuesday after Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said it would be impossible to address their demands by their December 4 deadline.

Oliphant said the sectoral determination was put in place in March this year and could legally be reviewed again only in 12 months.

In the meantime, the department would continue holding public hearings on a new sectoral determination.

Labour department spokesman Page Boikanyo, said the next hearings would take place in Limpopo on Thursday.

The last hearings would take place in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape next Thursday.

"Through the hearings, the department would collate information to answer the key questions -- that of the ability of employers to afford the high[er] wages and their effects on business," Boikanyo said.

Farmworkers' Strike Coalition spokesman Mario Wanza claimed many farmworkers and organisation officials were arrested while protesting on Tuesday.

"While we have called for peace and friendship we have witnessed the arrest of a number of people, including Mercia Andrews of the Trust for Community Outreach and Education, and Ronald Wesso at Surplus People Project," he said.

He also claimed arrests were made outside Montagu, in Citrusdal, and in Paarl.

Western Cape police did not immediately respond to the allegations.
cosatu  |  de doorns  |  wage dispute  |  farmworkers
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