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Job cuts 'only the beginning' - farm union

Feb 07 2013 10:24 Sapa
Protesting farmworkers

Protesting farmworkers (File, supplied)

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Johannesburg - Farmers had no choice but to retrench workers and cut costs to survive, TAU SA said on Thursday.

The farmers' union said at least 2 000 farmworkers had been notified of their impending retrenchment, especially in Limpopo.

"These retrenchments are the beginning. Farmers started restructuring immediately after the announcement of the new minimum wage," general manager Bennie van Zyl said.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant announced a new minimum wage of R105 a day for farmworkers on Monday - up from the current R69 a day. It would take effect on March 1.

Van Zyl said farmers had proposed an R80 wage, because of the "present state" of the agricultural sector.

He said most of the retrenchments were due to farmers mechanising their operations.

"The effect that this (minimum wage increase) would have on consumers and the country's food security are unimaginable."

Meanwhile, a planned campaign by Cosatu against major retailers who "exploit" farmers by paying low prices for agricultural products would not work, van Zyl said.

"I wish Cosatu could take a lesson in economics. That is not how economics work... there is a whole range of issues involved from the farm right up to the consumer," van Zyl, said.

Western Cape Congress of SA Trade Unions secretary Tony Ehrenreich said on Wednesday that retailers were buying products from farmers for "ridiculously" low prices.

"It is partly these practices that have seen the distorted pricing structure in agriculture," Ehrenreich said.

Van Zyl questioned whether Cosatu's actions were "economically driven or politically driven".

He said calm had to prevail in order to effectively deal with this crisis in the sector. He urged Cosatu to instead campaign for more investment and job creation in the country.

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tau sa  |  farmworkers  |  retrenchments
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