Cape Town - Western Cape farmworkers have agreed to
peacefully conduct next week's strike over labour issues, their coalition said
Farmworkers' Strike Coalition spokesperson Mario Wanza said
they met police officials on Thursday, and both agreed to share and co-ordinate
information on plans for the day.
Police acknowledged their right to strike from Tuesday, but
said police could not enter into agreements with any party.
Wanza said there would be no violence or intimidation by
protesters and police, everyone would operate in the "spirit of peace and
friendship", and no road closures would be undertaken by workers and
He said Agri-SA had agreed to meet at the weekend, to make
"Farm owners are discouraged from using private
security companies to protect farms as it contributes towards
instability," he said.
The coalition represents organisations, including Women on
Farms, Sikhula Sonke, the Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry,
the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), and non-unionised workers in Zolani,
Bonnievale, De Doorns, Worcester, Robertson, and Nkubela.
Table grape harvesters started protesting in De Doorns at
the start of the month for wages of R150 per day and improved living
conditions. Most earned between R69 and R75 a day.
The protests soon spread to 15 other towns, leading to violence
and two deaths.
Workers suspended their strike until December 4 on condition
that the employment conditions commission (ECC) review the sectoral
determination for agriculture.
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant announced this week that it
was impossible to meet the deadline.
She said the sectoral determination was put in place in
March this year and, by law, could only be reviewed again in 12 months.
The coalition announced that it would pick up the protest
next week and carry on indefinitely.
Both sides have been in negotiation since the strike was
Talks resumed on Thursday at the labour department in Cape
Town, under the eye of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and
Agri-SA, which represented farmers, said the talks revolved
around options and processes for resolving the unrest in the short-term and
seeking consensus on wages and social benefits in the long-term.
"The intention was to seek a solution that would be
acceptable to both farmers and farmworkers and not undermine long-term
sustainability of the agricultural sector and food security," the body
It was agreed that the Universities of Pretoria and
Stellenbosch would conduct an independent economic modelling exercise under the
auspices of the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy.
"(This) will provide insight into the implications on
the profitability and sustainability of agricultural subsectors under different
wage level scenarios."
The information was expected within the next two weeks.
Agri-SA said farmers accepted the minimum wage would
increase and proposed a joint assessment of the nature and extent of
"in-kind" benefits for workers.
They also promised to refrain from violence during the
strike and called on workers to do the same.
"This process should not be about scoring points, but
finding a sustainable solution. It is therefore imperative that all parties
commit themselves to the process as announced by the labour minister."
On Thursday, Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer
said all security agencies in the province were on standby and ready to deal
with any eventuality.
The provincial government had set up a hotline for people to
report unrest or plans to cause violence or destruction.
The 24-hour hotline, on 0860-142-142, could also be called
to find out which areas and roads were affected by protests.