Minister: Farm wage talks a stop-gap

Dec 05 2012 18:05

Cape Town - Farm-to-farm pay talks in the Western Cape are a "stop-gap measure" to restore peace until sectoral wage talks in March, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said on Wednesday.

Briefing the media in Cape Town, following negotiations on Tuesday that resulted in unions declaring January 9 the new deadline for farmworkers' R150 a day minimum wage demands to be met, she appealed to both farmers and their employees to negotiate in good faith.

"Sectoral negotiations are the overall, comprehensive solution to this problem... [but for now] we are left with no other option but to do farm-to-farm negotiations," she said.

"We appeal to all farmers and farmworkers to negotiate in good faith. I appeal to all stakeholders not to victimise farmworkers. I appeal to farmworkers not to engage in instances of violence."

Joemat-Pettersson urged farmers to allow union members onto their farms "so the workers have some form of support when these negotiations take place".

She said the negotiations -- agreed to at a meeting on Tuesday, involving unions, the departments of agriculture and labour, and AgriSA, among others -- needed to be as open and honest as possible.

"These are not comprehensive negotiations, but a stop-gap measure to assist us in managing the period from now until the end of the sectoral negotiations."

She warned this stop-gap measure was not about establishing a minimum wage now.

"We are not creating expectations that by January 9, there will be a new minimum wage; this will be determined by the sectoral negotiations... which remain the fundamental responsibility of the minister of labour."

Joemat-Pettersson said she was in "regular contact" with Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on the matter.

There was sporadic farmworker violence in several Western Cape towns on Tuesday, including Robertson and Koo, and marches and protest action in several others.

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



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