Pretoria — Director General in the Department of Labour Nkosinathi Nhleko has expressed grave concern at the extremely low levels of unionisation in the farming sector.
He said this on Wednesday following a meeting with organised trade unions in the wake of the suspension of the farmworkers strike in the Western Cape until 9 January. Workers are demanding that the minimum wage be increased to R150 per day against the current R70.
"I think we should all be worried that there is very low union representivity with figures showing that under 6 percent of farmworkers belong to trade unions nationally. In the Western Cape figures hover around the 10 percent mark," he said.
He said if workers are not unionised it meant they will know less about their rights and how to exercise them.
"I also wish to say we are concerned that the issue of the farm workers' sectoral determination has been clouded with collective bargaining," he said.
Nhleko said he was worried that the farmworkers had gone on strike without following due process.
A union representative appealed to the department to assist the farmworkers to get access to farms through the creation of regional forums that could bring together workers in one spot.
The unions said the situation in the farming industry was still "very hostile" and that they were not happy with the public hearings currently underway. They would urge their members to attend in order to make their inputs and ensure that they influenced the outcome.
Unrest in the farming community in the Western Cape started last month when workers went on strike demanding higher wages. The industrial action has affected the wine industry in De Doorns and 15 other Western Cape towns.