Coalition: Strike not over

2012-12-06 16:25

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.

  • David Steyn - 2012-12-06 17:08

    To all farmers in this country. Stop taking this abuse pull together and mechanise. You guys are the best farmers in Africa and that is why the Congolese Government is welcoming you into the Congo and giving you land to farm on. You have the knowledge and intelligence to overcome this crap.

      david.lebethe - 2012-12-06 17:49

      I don't think it is a good advise considering that it might affect the subsidy that farmer get from the government. Like in any sphere of business that is heavily subsidies by the government, labour is a determinant factor. In my view, farmers will be spiting their own nose should they opt for mechanisation.

      strikeback.strikeback - 2012-12-06 20:16

      David, please enlighten us on the subsidy for farmers, where do we apply? You are confused by the government's restitution policy. Existing farmers are milked by the Middleman, Tax Man and are just missed by the Postman. This is why they have made a stand and did not merely roll over. They engaged the workers and started talking. Strikeback on the other hand cannot wait to list the strikers on our site.

      silvia.vaneck2 - 2012-12-06 20:47

      David Lebethe, Where do we apply for this government subsidy??? I agree David Steyn, Mechanise where we can. Only then can we pay the remaining farm workers what they want. Sorry about the thousands that will lose their jobs!!

  • david.lebethe - 2012-12-06 17:39

    It is typical of Alliance politics to leave people on a lurch. Cosatu and its affiliate, Num, compromised mineworkers in Marikana and now this. However, it is good that people are now seeing through the anc and its partners in the alliance. I support a Coaliation and commend sterling work they do among farmworkers.

      fanie.gerber1972 - 2012-12-07 05:57

      By inciting them to burn down vineyards and orchards - you have to be joking. Dut to this action a lot of Western Cape households will be facing a very bleak Christmas indeed

  • aubrey.bouah - 2012-12-06 18:09

    Political bantering by both Ehrenreich and Joemat-Pettersen. Do not be fooled, all this is in line with the ANC policy of 'making the Western Cape ungovernable'as they would like to get their grubby little paws on a well run, successful province and stuff it up as well as the rest of the country. While I feel for the farm-workers and their plight, they (the farm-workers) have allowed themselves to be swept up by the clever tricks of Ehrenreich and co. They instead have confronted the farmers directly and sorted out their differences. It is interesting to note that the permanent workers are willing to continue working while negotiations are under way. Again there seems to be a 'criminal' (and I must be careful how I use the word) element that is behind all of this. What does Joemat-Pettersen mean by sectoral wage talks in March? Christmas is around the corner and there are some who celebrate it that would like just that little bit extra on the plate now and not in March next year. Maybe another softening up ploy before the next elections looming in the not to distant future. Will the ANC not stop in their attemps to gain the Western Cape, no matter what the cost?

  • strikeback.strikeback - 2012-12-06 20:07

    Now what Mr Striker? Are you going to leave it there? COSATU clearly put you in a worse position and make you look like fools. (You played a large role in this yourself also) Now you should visit Tony Erenreich and demand to be compensated for your losses. Don't forget, with the right to strike, comes the right to demand restitution from COSATU. Don't let them just walk away or they will do it to you again.

  • Mike Schulze - 2012-12-06 20:14

    mmmmm, please explain what subsidy farmers get- I am a farmer and I have not seen it- I think that subsidizing our expenses is the only way most farmers are going to survive in this testing time in our Agri sector- we have a small farm but provide permanent employment to 9 local people- with the costs going up, I don't see us surviving- if there is a subsidy out there, I would have taken it- surely we are the people government should be protecting!

      strikeback.strikeback - 2012-12-06 20:27

      Mike, tell the farmers out there about Strikeback. We love the farmers. To show our support we eat meat every day. Our aim is to provide a platform for farmers, and business, to report bad workers on our site, so farmers can check if persons has not been listed before they employ staff. This way we do not employ the discarded problems of others. Check our site at Uploads are automated.

      silvia.vaneck2 - 2012-12-06 20:50

      Exactly Mike. At the rate the workers want increases a lot of farmers will face bankruptcy... Then there will be no more jobs for the farm workers but worst of all, less food produced for South Africa. And this will drive the food prices even higher than before!!!

  • altus.kirsten - 2012-12-07 08:06

    Look at any country that is suffering...if agriculture fails, then SA is going under sooner than we think. Take Zim as example. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. There is zero subsidy for famers. I am a farmer and can confirm this.

  • bernpm - 2012-12-07 13:04

    I have missed in this wage dispute the "real" income for permanent farm workers, taking into account things like free/reduced housing, free/reduced food, free/reduced transport and so on. Same for season workers. When properly administrated, these items are considered "income in natura" and should be subjected to income tax. The discussion would then be about "real disposable income". I do not think that any farmer or farm worker would like SARS to become involved in this detail.

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