Yesterday the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries held a meeting with unions as part of a series of government interventions to find a solution to the ongoing labour unrest and strikes in various farming areas in the Western Cape.
The labour unrest, which has been going on for the past two months, has highlighted and brought attention to the living conditions of farm workers and their plight for decent salaries. These processes have highlighted yet again the social issues in farmlands, including service delivery shortfalls in townships and communities in and around the farms.
Agriculture is the bread basket of our country. With soaring household food insecurity levels, we simply could not allow the sector to go into ruin. We could not allow for the labour unrest to destroy all the work we have done in the agricultural sector.
During the process, we realised that we all care and have the best interests for the sector. We realised that the problems that we have been aware of, through the reports by Human Rights Watch and Building Wood and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (BAWUSA), revealed the levels of unhappiness in farms and the gross human rights issues found there.
Yesterday's meeting helped us in reaching a solution and thus putting an end to the strike. I would, thus, like to caution that we speak as concerned stakeholders and not farm workers. We have facilitated mechanisms that will seek to address some of the issues that farm workers have raised, and we hope that these will be achieved.
Among the recommendations are those: Company or farm level negotiations will take place at the affected farms. Where disputes arise between farm workers and farmers, the dispute resolution mechanisms will be followed as stipulated by the law. These mechanisms have not been finalised but will include legal frameworks that will guide this process. At the same time, the sectoral determination processes to be facilitated by the Department of Labour will still continue.
We also call on the entire value chain of the agriculture industry to assist with social relief. We have set up a relief centre where private business and residents of the Western Cape and the entire South African society can contribute towards Christmas packages for communities and farm workers affected by the strike through the food relief fund.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has already started with a food relief initiative to assist affected farm worker communities in the Western Cape.