14 January 2013

South Africa: Cosatu Reaffirms Support for Farm Workers' Strike

Photo: Wikipedia
Vineyard in South Africa's Western Cape

The Congress of South African Trade Unions pledges its total support for the farm workers' strike for a living wage. There can be no excuse for the pathetic level of pay – R69 a day -given to these men and women who toil in the scorching summer sun and the freezing winter snow, in the wind and rain, to produce the food we eat.

The fruits of their labour bring huge profits to the farm owners, the food processing companies and the retail supermarket giants. But hardly any of these profits find their way back to the labourers who create the wealth. That is why they are saying to their bosses – "enough is enough" - and have taken action by withdrawing their labour.

COSATU in the Western Cape has played an exemplary part in uncompromisingly supporting the strikers while at the same time trying to facilitate negotiations with the employers and government for a wage increase which will be acceptable to the workers.

Some employers have agreed to sit down and negotiate and are prepared to put offers on the table. Others however, seem to think they are still living in the days of apartheid and are not prepared to budge an inch.

Now is the time for the whole trade union movement, in South Africa and around the globe, to mobilise their members in solidarity action with their comrades on the farms. We appeal to workers in food processing, the supermarket chains, road freight and rail transport, the ports and airports, to heed the call to boycott those firms who are not prepared to concede improvements in pay and conditions.

COSATU urges all its affiliates whose members are involved in the food supply chain to write to their employers to persuade them to put pressure on farm employers to negotiate and to boycott those who refuse to pay a living wage.

The federation also calls on the government to intervene with far greater urgency to facilitate talks with recalcitrant employers, to speed up the revision of the sectoral determination for farm workers, and to raise the legal minimum salaries from their present low level.

Finally to the farm workers themselves, we urge you to join the Food and Allied Workers Union and become part of the trade union movement. We are full of admiration for your fighting spirit but recognise that while spontaneous strike action can achieve important gains in the short run, only a strong, well-organised trade union can sustain those gains and defend them from the bosses' inevitable attempts to claw them back and go back to their traditional practices of brutal exploitation.

COSATU condemns any resort to violence or crime, from any quarter – employers, police or workers themselves – but insists that the responsibility for any such action rests ultimately with the system of exploitation of workers, which inevitably leads to anger and resentment. In this, the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Natives Land Act, which legalised the theft of African people's land, we need to take up far more urgently the demand of the Freedom Charter that "The land shall be shared among those who work it!" An injury to one is an injury to all! Mobilise solidarity with the farm workers! Their fight is every worker's fight!

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