26 February 2013

South Africa: Farmworkers Go On Unprotected Strike After Employers' Variation

press release

It has only being a month after the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant launched the much awaited Sectoral Determination on Farmworkers Sector. A move that saw employees catapulted from a meagre R69 per day to a whopping R105 per day.

But the path has not been very rosy since then. Recent turn of events reveal that farmworkers have gone on an unprotected strike and are up in arms with the employers for applying for ministerial variation. The variation gives the employer an opportunity to forward documentation to prove that indeed she/he cannot afford the minimum wage increment.

Phaswane Tladi, Deputy Director in the department said, in as much as the farmworkers deserve the R105 per day increment, the law equally gives employers a chance to apply for the variation and the department will assess the situation and recommend accordingly.

"The law goes even further to say that during the process when the employer has applied for the variation, he or she must continue paying the previous minimum wage until the assessments by the department has been completed."

But the employers will be liable to pay the differences accordingly to the employees if the application is not successful, Phaswane said. Latest figures show that 70 percent of farmers in South Africa are having a turnover of less than R300.000 annually. On the other side of the coin, employers continue to retrench employees in large numbers due to the new minimum wage.

"We would like to appeal for calm and encourage farmers that face challenges and affordability to rather consider applying for this variation than opting to retrench employees as this will add on the already high rate of unemployment in the country. We are ready to criss-cross the country and go from farm to farm and help with further consultations both with the employers and employees in order to bring clarity and certainty home," he said.

Issued by: Department of Labour

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