The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) welcomes short term victory of 50% adjustment in minimum wage for farm workers, from R69.00 to R105.00
FAWU is inspired by the courageous announcement by the Minister and by the preceding recommendations by members of the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC) to adjust wages by more than 50%. FAWU believes that this meets our short term demand of a minimum wage increase for farm workers of not less than R105 per day.
This raise of over 50%, by the department of labour, is a meaningful step towards obtaining a living wage for farm workers. It is unprecedented to have a wage increase of over 50%, but it was the least that could have been expected in light of the unacceptably low minimum wage of R69 per day, enough to buy only four loafs of bread a day.
We will, however, fearlessly continue to push for higher wages in the sector, with the clarion call for a R150 per day minimum as our mandate.
We will do so through any and all militant, but legal and responsible methods. Additionally we will engage with all relevant stakeholders in our attempt to make living wages viable, including innovative methods such as possibly pushing for tax-breaks for farm owners, lower export/import duties, pushing for retailers, exporters, 'middle-men' and traders to pay more to farm owners and possibly even government subsidies.
Our members, guided by their union, will also continue to negotiate on a farm by farm basis and such negotiations should, hopefully, result in agreement on issues such as working conditions like hours of work and health or safety as well as on living conditions like shelter and services on electricity and water.
Where there are no farm-by-farm agreements, we will not rule out industrial actions targeted at those specific farms as well as calls for domestic consumer boycott and international retailer boycott of produce or products coming from such farms.
Our short term focus will now be on ensuring that farm owners respect the law and pay workers no less than the new minimum wage. Our members will also be on the look-out for any unfair dismissals and illegitimate deportation of foreign nationals.
We call upon the department of labour to increase its presence in the sector, by doubling personnel in its inspectorate division, to ensure that farm owners comply with the law and to ensure that farm owners who claim to be unable to continue employing their current workers, do pay the legally stipulated retrenchment packages workers are entitled. In this context, our call for a compulsory employer and employee contribution-based provident fund comes handy.
We remind media and the public that this is the minimum wage not the maximum. We therefore repeat our call to those farm owners who currently pay more than R105.00 to continue doing so and we also call on those successful farm owners who can afford to, to immediately pay higher wages of R150 per day or more.
This clarion call is informed by the widely-acknowledged treble-crises of unemployment, inequality and poverty in our country. With this in mind, we call on the Minister and the ECC to fast-track the sectoral Determination for Forestry Workers to be in line with Farm Workers as it remains unacceptable for them to earn lesser than farm workers anyway.
For more information kindly contact Katishi Masemola, General Secretary, at 082 467 2509.