Oliphant must step up to end farm strikes – WCape govt

2013-01-11 15:11

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant must act decisively to stop violent farm worker strikes in the Western Cape, the provincial government has said.

“Her deafening silence in the face of this crisis must be challenged,” said Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and provincial agricultural MEC Gerrit van Rensburg in a joint statement today.

They said that Oliphant should not “hide” behind calls to follow official processes.

“It is incumbent on the labour minister to make the first move in defusing the situation, through visible and proactive engagement.”

The strike by seasonal farm workers to have their minimum R69 daily wage increased to R150 – which began late August last year, and was called off at the beginning of December – resumed on Wednesday in De Doorns.

Running clashes between protesters and the police have seen hundreds arrested for public violence and the police using a water cannon, rubber bullets and stun grenades in an attempt to disperse thousands of strikers. The N1 had also been closed.

Zille and Van Rensburg said Oliphant needed to get all the parties involved into discussions as soon as possible so that the harvest season was not affected.

“Failure to do so will see very severe consequences, not only for the Western Cape but for South Africa as a whole.”

Today, Oliphant suggested it was farmers who needed to come to the negotiation table.

“I am not convinced there is a serious attempt by farmers to negotiate,” said Oliphant in a statement.

She said farm owners were instead insisting on a sectoral determination process which would hold hearings from next week to relook at the R69 a day minimum wage.

The Cape Orchards Company representing 12 farms in De Doorns agreed to talk with various unions.

Meanwhile, the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) warned that strike action could not lead to long lasting changes.

“Industrial action may force employers to make immediate concessions, but it cannot secure long-term employment,” Neasa CEO Gerhard Papenfus said in a statement.

He said that wage increases had to take “economic realities” into account.

“Any increases which do not fit into a sustainable business model will lead to all kinds of undesired consequences, which in turn will result in unemployment.”

Papenfus gave the example of the wage negotiations that took place in the mining sector after it was beset by wildcat strikes.

He warned that higher wages could also lead to retrenchments.

“One can also not ignore the fact that low earners are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet. However, it’s also true that the millions of unemployed South Africans pose an even bigger threat in the medium to long term,” he said.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Amazing solar inventions!

Solar power is lighting up the world, and not just on rooftops anymore.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

It may be hard to maintain a steady rhythm as you find yourself juggling a zillion things. Slow down a little and let go of some...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.