Police monitor farm protests

2012-11-17 11:43

Police would continue to monitor areas of the Western Cape which had been affected by the protests of striking farm workers, provincial police said.

“From the police side, everything is quiet this morning,” Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut said today.

Yesterday, protesters looted shops and torched businesses in the Hex River Valley and roads in the province, including the N2, were blockaded with rocks and burning tyres.

The Mawubuye Land Rights Forum said in a statement today that it supported the striking workers in their demands.

“These protests are spontaneous and organised by the workers themselves, and are an indicator of the abject poverty that farm workers and their communities experience.”

Protests over wages in the province spread across the Boland, with table grape harvesters demanding to be paid R150 a day.

Most earned between R69 and R75 a day. Even among workers at the same farm, there were often pay disparities, with women paid less than their male counterparts, even though they do the same work, Mawubuye claimed.

“Living conditions on many farms are sub-human, and we need to dispel the myth that farmers provide free electricity and offer pay for transport themselves.”

The labour department met with various farmers’ unions yesterday and negotiations are set to start next Thursday. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration would mediate the talks.

The department called for interested parties to comment on a possible review of the sectoral determination for farm workers, which prescribes minimum wages and conditions of employment.

About 300 farm workers who went on strike in Wolseley in the Western Cape returned to work yesterday, according to the SA National Civic Organisation.

Provincial general secretary Vusi Myeki said the workers agreed to suspend the strike for at least two weeks pending a decision on the farm workers’ minimum wage.

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