Farm workers’ strike ‘not over’

2013-01-17 11:20

The farm workers’ strike in the Western Cape has not been suspended, the Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry (Bawsi) has said.

“The strike will continue across the province until there is an agreement for better wages and worker protection,” said Nosey Pieterse, Bawsi president and general secretary of the Building and Allied Workers Union of SA (Bawusa).

“Workers who go back do so at a huge risk. They are going back to vindictive farmers, more dismissals, victimisation and intimidation; the same old life, the same old money.”

Pieterse, who said he represented thousands of striking workers, cited an example in Piket-Bo-Berg of such victimisation.

He said farmers in the area allegedly invited workers to return on Tuesday and when they did, fired 41 of them.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) yesterday announced the strike would be suspended for a week.

Provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said the strike would resume next Wednesday unless Agri SA agreed to certain conditions.

“The only real thing that Agri SA has to agree to, is that they will not victimise workers for standing up and protesting against the R69 a day starvation wage.”

Agri SA also needed to “honour their previous commitments to local-level agreements”.

Farm workers went on strike last year to demand their daily wage be increased from R69 to R150, and that a coherent land reform programme be implemented. The strike was suspended in December, but resumed on Wednesday last week in various towns in the province.

At least 180 people had been arrested in connection with the protests since Wednesday last week.

Agri SA president Johannes Moller said in a statement yesterday that no agricultural wage deal had yet been made in the country.

He said a single Clanwilliam farmer had made an agreement that was “welcomed by Cosatu and portrayed by them as a collective deal with Clanwilliam farmers”.

He said Cosatu viewed this isolated deal as one which could “serve as a trend-setter for wider application”.

The offer was apparently not supported or mandated as a collective agreement by other farm leaders and their organisations in the area.

Agri SA had repeatedly called for individual farmers to negotiate with their workers, which was apparently taking place.

Western Cape police spokesman Andre Traut said no arrests or reports of violence linked to the protest were recorded overnight or this morning.

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