Joemat-Pettersson to meet with Zuma over farm workers’ wages

2012-11-14 07:01

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson is expected to meet President Jacob Zuma to get his support for higher wages for farm workers.

“The minister was asked by the farm workers to intervene and to speak to the president to escalate their demands,” her spokesperson Palesa Mokomela said.

“Joemat-Pettersson will basically act as their messenger when she hopefully meets with President Zuma today. She will ask the government to re-determine the wages of farm workers.”

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said he was aware of the proposed meeting, but would not comment as it was an internal matter.

Grape harvesters in the Hex River Valley, in the Western Cape, had been protesting for a week over their wages, demanding R150 a day. Most earned between R69 and R75 a day, with R80 being the highest and only offer from farmers.

According to reports today protests were taking place in 16 towns. Several workers had been arrested for public violence.

This morning, Joemat-Pettersson called on the labour department to intervene in the Western Cape farm workers’ strike.

“I have no capacity to advise or influence the employment conditions commission,” she told SAfm.”

“That is a matter for the department of labour or the minister of labour. We have done what we could as the department of agriculture and we will continue supporting workers.”

She said she had helped “restore relationships” between striking farm workers and farmers.

“I think we’ve [the department] acted as a facilitator to allow that these negotiations and talks stay on track ... We cannot afford this sector to lose jobs ... that is why we decided to participate in normalising the situation.”

“We call on all workers to stop the violence, to stop the vandalism,” the minister said on SAfm.

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