6 December 2012

South Africa: Farmers, Unions Urged to Negotiate in Good Faith

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has urged representatives of Agri-SA and unions to negotiate in good faith for the minimum wage demand for farmworkers.

Giving reporters an update about the farmworkers strike on Wednesday in Cape Town, Joemat-Pettersson also called upon all farmworkers to return to work.

"We want to appeal to farmworkers union and representatives of farmers to negotiate in good faith for the wage demand for farmworkers, we also want to appeal to farmers not to victimise farmworkers during this negotiations process, again we are also appealing to farmworkers to refrain from all forms of violence," she said.

The Farmworkers in De Doorns embarked on a strike early last month demanding R150 per day as well as improved living conditions.

The strike was suspended on Tuesday after the union and Agri-SA agreed to negotiate. Most farmworkers in the area earn between R69 and R75 a day.

The negotiations would centre on the wage demand of a R150 per day and a profit-sharing scheme.

Highlighting the importance of all stakeholders to work together, the Minister said: "I do not think we would have been able to find a solution if we did not work together as a country, yes, we do not have a final solution, but I believe that the processes we've agreed upon has allowed us to have the strike suspended pending the review of the sectorial determination of the minimum wage for farm workers".

Joemat-Pettersson said while farmworkers were on strike, they did not receive wages, which led them to fail to put food on the table for their respective families.

She said this was also confirmed by farmworkers' union when she met them yesterday who indicated the concern of shortage of food for families.

"We believe that while they were embarking on strike action, they received little wages which makes it impossible for them to support their respective families.

"Now, we are calling our organised agriculture, commercial farmers and all sectors of the society to assist us with humanitarian aid for destitute farmworkers and dwellers.

"We call all representatives in the De Doorns, Western Cape and entire country to assist us in any possible regard when it comes to food aid; this is the time for giving," she said.

The Minister said as a result of the situation, she also views food insecurity as a risk that may exacerbate a volatile situation on the ground in the area.

"I do not think that we must consider the situation to be completely calm while you have a volatile situation. We are food secure as a country, but we are not food secure for households.

"Any uncertainty could flare up an unpleasant situation, so we call on South Africans to assist us to mitigate the risk of having any inhuman situation developing in this area."


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