23 November 2012

South Africa: Western Cape Farmers Concerned At Looming Strike

Pretoria — Farmers have on Friday expressed grave concern that the strike in the farming sector in the Western Cape may resume and have urged the Department of Labour's Director-General, Nkosinathi Nhleko, to do all within his powers to bring stability to the situation.

The strike by farm workers has a possibility of restarting on 4 December after being suspended to give the department an opportunity to review the wages and conditions of service in the sector.

Their views were stated at a public hearing in Worcester at which famers indicated they could not afford the workers' demand of R150 per day increase against the current R70 figure.

They asked Nhleko to inform Labour Minister, Mildred Oliphant, and even President Jacob Zuma about the precarious situation farmers find themselves in with many people fearing for their lives and jobs.

One farmer went as far as to appeal to church, political, labour and all civic leaders to be concerned about what's going to happen to the province.

At the same time, he urged farmers to be prepared to defend their farms, their people and property.

"We have taken note of all your views and can only remind you that whatever problems we have can be resolved by talking. As the department, we have committed ourselves to assist parties to talk," Nhleko said.

He assured the meeting that where needs be, the issues would be escalated to the right people.

Nhleko said the process of engaging stakeholders through public hearings was critical as this will culminate with input to the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC). This is the body which advises the Minister on wages and other conditions of service.

Teboho Thejane, Chief Director for the Department in the Western Cape, said once the ECC has looked at all the inputs, it will make a recommendation to the minister to make the final determination.

Nhleko said the next hearing is set to take place in Kwa-Zulu-Natal and end off in Mpumalanga on December 12.

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