11 December 2012

South Africa: Department of Labour Public Hearings to Review Farmworkers Wages Enters the Final Part

Photo: Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA
Protesters in the main road of Swellendam demonstrate for better wages on Thursday, 15 November 2012 during widespread unrest among farm workers that started in De Doorns in the Western Cape and since spread to other towns in the area.

press release

The month-long farmworkers minimum wage review public hearings being hosted by the Department of Labour to quell violent strikes in the farming sector will wind-up this week with three last sessions.

The hearings will conclude on Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 18h00, with simultaneous presentations in both Barkly East Town Hall, next to Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape and at Bronkhorstspruit's Tshwane sports centre, Church Street, Bronkhorstpruit in Gauteng, respectively.

These two sessions will be preceded by another joint session for both employers and employees at Winkelhal farm, KwaMhlushwa in Mpumalanga at 10h00 tomorrow, 12 December 2012.

Department of Labour Acting Director of Labour Standards Titus Mtsweni said after this week's swan song, there was a possibility next week of hosting a last act at the De Doorns, in the Western Cape - the epicentre of the farmworkers strike-following a request from labour unions. He said logistics for extra public hearings were still being worked out.

Mtsweni said the hearings to date have been a very fruitful exercise that "unfolded beyond expectations". He said after the conclusion the Department of Labour's public hearing a report drawn from inputs collated from the hearings will be submitted just on time before the next Employment Conditions Commission (ECC) meeting in January for consideration.

The ECC is a body composed of government representatives, labour unions, and employers that advises Labour Minister on wages and other conditions of employment in the vulnerable sectors including agriculture/farming sector.

He said the report will make recommendations on the adjustments to be effected to the new sectoral determination (SD).

The farm worker sector is one of vulnerable sectors governed by legislation which set the determination of conditions of employment. The sectoral determination covers issues relating to minimum wages, number of leave days, working hours and termination rules among others.

To date, the Department of Labour has hosted farmworker public hearings in Worcester, Western Cape; Boston, KwaZulu-Natal; Makhado, Limpopo, Ottosdal, North West,Bothaville, Free State, and Keimoes, Northern Cape.

The Department of Labour decided to bring forward the consultative process for the review to help quell the deteriorating situation in the farms that is threatening to spiral nationally. This, after several hundreds of workers from De Doorns, Western Cape downed tools, embarking on a two-week violent industrial action. The workers are demanding a daily rate of R150 a day.

In terms of section 56(1) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), it is stipulated that the provisions of sectoral determination remain binding until they are amended or suspended by a new or amended SD, or they are cancelled or suspended by the Minister.

In terms of the same law the Minister can only review the sectoral determination once it has been in place for a period of at least 12 months.

The current determination is binding until the end of February 2013.

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