5 December 2012

South Africa: Labour Director-General Worried Over Low Levels of Farm Worker Representation

press release

The Labour Department's Director-General, Nkosinathi Nhleko, has today, 6 December 2012 expressed grave concern at the extremely low levels of unionisatioin in the farming sector.

He said this following a meeting with organised trade unions in the wake of the suspension of the wage strike in the Western Cape until January 9, next year.

Workers are demanding an increase of R150 per day against the current pay of R70.

"I think we should all be worried that there is very low union representivity with figures showing that under 6 percent of farm workers belong to trade unions nationally. In the Western Cape figures hover around the 10 percent mark," he said.

"If workers are not unionised it means they will know less about their rights and how to exercise them.. I also wish to say we are also concerned that the issue of the farm workers' sectoral determination has been clouded with collective bargaining," he said.

The Director-General also said he was worried at the behavior that borders on the "Marikana situation" where people went on strike without following due process.

One union representative appealed to the department to assist "us in getting 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".

Unions further said although 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.

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