2 February 2013

South Africa: Press Statement On the Announcement of New Minimum Wages in Agricultural Sector

The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), as a responsible union with both experienced and seasoned leadership, as well as democratic structures, has taken into account the needs, interests and demands of our members and farm workers when making a call for the strike action to be called off earlier in January.

After interrogating the situation, and its complexities, we understand the huge responsibility that comes with being the union that has the highest membership in the sector and thus we needed to act carefully. FAWU wants to truly protect its membership and generally all farm workers by ensuring the best outcome is achieved from all the hard earned pressure and attention that was achieved through strike actions.

FAWU leadership has considered the situation facing farm workers, farm owners and government, and the current economic situation facing the agricultural sector and the entire country. Flowing from this assessment we interrogated our on-going demand for a national government to set minimum wage of R150.00 per day for farm workers and, after consultation with members and interested workers, the following was agreed upon.

The call for a minimum wage of R150.00-a-day by farm workers remains a clarion call supported by FAWU and commanding huge public sympathy.

As a meaningful step towards obtaining this we call upon Minister Mildred Oliphant, in her announcement on Monday (4th February 2013), to raise the minimum wage by over 50% to no less than R105 per day.

We call on those farm owners who currently pay more than R105.00 to continue doing so and not to reduce wages to a new minimum.

We further call upon those successful farm owners who can immediately afford to pay R150 per day or more to do so without delay.

We call for consumers to support those farmers who pay well or pay R105.00 or more to their workers.

We also call for an end to general calls to boycott South African agricultural products, but we recognise that selected calls targeted at specific farm owners, bent on victimising workers, remain a weapon to be utilised should it be necessary.

We call on government, farm owners, retail outlets, exporters and importers to join together with unions and ensure that in the near future the minimum wage of R150 can be paid on all farms.

Meanwhile, we reiterate our call for the Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Naledi Pandoor, to extend or provide a special, even though temporary, dispensation to document farm workers on Western Cape farms and in the Boland in particular. We also want foreign nationals working in the agricultural sector in general to be assisted with documentation and the practice of deporting striking workers to stop.

Additionally, in all sectors but particularly on farms, we demand that the notorious practice of police or immigration officials partnering with farmers by deporting undocumented workers on their pay day, thereby enforcing workers to be unpaid for their labour, to be stopped immediately.

Equally important, we still repeat our calls on farm owners not to victimize all farm workers but allow them back to work and to give access to trade unions to organize these workers and for them, as farm owners, to dialogue with trade unions.

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