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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

Threatening country wide Protest in Agriculture on 4 December 2012

30th November 2012

The negotiations have come to an abrupt halt on Thursday 29 November at 17h00 when the Farmers said they are not prepared to make any monetary offer to improve the R69, 00 a day wages that farm workers presently earn. The Farmers also refused to consider any other issues, which workers have raised from freedom of association to decent living conditions on farms. These are the matters that gave raise to widespread protest, that was only stopped and suspended, when Government promised to assist to find a resolution, and workers agreed to suspend the strike for 2 weeks.

The farmers, who were previously committed to find an agreement through good faith negotiations, changed their attitude to negotiations, when the Labour Minister announced that there would be no agreement, and no higher wages till next year. The right wing elements in the Farmers group have now taken control and are hiding behind the Ministerís sectoral determination process. The sectoral determination process has no bearing on the issue at hand, as the parties [farmers and workers] were negotiating to find an agreement that could have been announced before the 4 December 2012, and could have averted the strike. There are many good farmers who do not agree with the right wingers and their management of the negotiations, and are speaking to the unions separately to find pragmatic solutions. This development in the farming sector could see the end of Agri-SA, which is an apartheid style farmerís organisation that wants to perpetuate apartheid style practices.

The Minister has made a regrettable statement, about next year, that has not assisted the process at all, and if it was not her intentions to derail the process, she should assist to get negotiations back on track. The farmers do not deny that they can afford to pay more, but insist that if they end the slave wages in one sector, they would have to end it in all sectors. They are really saying that if they treat the workers humane in sector, then workers would be demanding to be treated humanely in all sectors, and they canít have this. They would rather spend their money on security guards, than on wage increases. They would rather assemble there private right wing armies on the farms, that have already been responsible for the death of one worker than change the apartheid style farming treatment.

The issues that are emerging amongst the farm workers are;

  • An end to the slave wages of R69 a day
  • Freedom of association , so people can join unions
  • Accommodation that is fit for people on the farms.
  • An end to evictions and respect of the humanity of workers
  • The partnership in land ownership and security of tenure
  • Support from Government for farms , in a manner that benefits workers also

These issues are not difficult to find solutions to, but what is difficult, is to find the political will. The leading ANC politicians who have farms, have not changed the apartheid style farming, or made workers ownership partners on the farms. The DA politicians unashamedly side with the farmers and canít even bring themselves to agree with the rest of the country that the R69 is too low a wage.

The farm workers have been let down by the country and in spite of their bending over backwards to find solutions, no one is prepared to listen or work towards solutions, with them. It would appear that despite our best efforts as the Unions called by workers to come and assist, we will not be able avert the resumption of the strike on the 4th December 2012. What we now know is that the workers have called for a one day of action across the whole Agriculture sector across South Africa on the 4 December 2012. This is in the hope that this would impress on Government the urgent need across the country, and the need for renewed talks to find a solution nationally. As the unions we had just been called to assist, to try and facilitate a solution, to remove the need for further strike action, but we have not succeeded and have no say in what the workers will do next. We are however saddened that the country would allow a dangerous situation to arise, where deepening strive can be the only outcome, just because there is an absence of leadership, or urgency.

The unions had given the Agri- SA a final opportunity to come to find a negotiated solution, until 18h00 Saturday 1st December 2012. A Press Conference will be held on Sunday at 15h00 2nd December 2012, in De Doorns at the sport field, where an announcement on the way forward will be made by workers, after they have received a report back..

For questions please call COSATU Western Cape provincial Secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, at 082 7733194