16 January 2013

South Africa: Department of Labour's Public Hearing' Spotlight Falls On De Doorns

Photo: Wikipedia
Vineyard in South Africa's Western Cape

press release

The Clanwilliam wage bill struck between farmworkers and farmers will be put to the test at the public hearing hosted by the Department of Labour (DoL) in De Doorns- the hot spot of strikers' violence, today.

The agreement, which was announced by Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Department of Labour in Cape Town on Tuesday, could see workers accepting a minimum wage of R150.00 a day from the previous wage of R69.00, if accepted by the farmers body, AgriSA.

Labour department Director General, Nkosinathi Nhleko, said the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) would use the Clanwilliam model during negotiations elsewhere.

Farmworkers in areas like De Doorns , Wolseley and Grabouw , have demanded a daily wage hike of R150.00.

Tonight's meeting, which start at 18h00 at the Multi-purpose center, is the third in a series following a request to the department by unions for the voice of workers to be heard.

Following last November's farmworkers' industrial action, the Department of Labour entered into a national, month-long farmworkers minimum wage review public hearings intended to quell violent strikes in the farming sector.

The process included visits to all nine provinces. The curtain on the sometime tension-filled public hearings came down on December 18 in Mpumalanga.

Titus Mtsweni, Dol's Acting Director: Labour Standards, said the process of crafting a report on the outcome of the public hearings, that were held last year was already underway, but felt that "it will not be appropriate to have a report without direct input from the area(s) mostly affected by the industrial action".

The remaining public hearings will be held as follows:

17 January - Robertson, Barrydale, Ashton, McGregor and Swellendam ( Robertson Community Hall- Hospital Avenue) - at 18h00.

18 January - Outshoorn, Ladismith, Zoar and Beaufort West (CVJ NG Kerk- Opposite Spar in Church Street)- at 18h00.

20 January - Vredendal and Citrusdal (Vredendaal Thusong Center) - at 14h00.

Mtsweni expects the departmental report on the inputs collated during the public hearings to be forwarded to the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC) in time ahead of its meeting at the end of this month.

The report will dwell on issues of the minimum wage; status of the sector, process issues; consideration of different submissions by stakeholders and recommendations by the department.

He said once ECC has met and deliberated it would make recommendations to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on the new minimum wage for farmworkers. Mtsweni said as things stand the Minister is expected to make an announcement on the new wage determination/sectoral determination (SD) in February, and this will be implemented from 1 March 2013.

The ECC is a structure 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.

The public hearings are part of a consultative process brought forward by the department to review the farmworkers' minimum wages, to help quell the deteriorating situation in the farms that was threatening the agriculture sector in South Africa.

In terms of 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 canceled or suspended by the Labour Minister. The current determination ends in February.

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