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Solution to Farm Wages

10 January 2013, 22:46

The minimum wage for farm labour is very low, nobody can argue against that fact. The problem is, how do we measure what a "low" wage is? I have a small farm, and keep a fair number of people with food in their stomachs from my "little" farm.

I have 7 permanent staff, and employ about 16 temps for about 4 months of the year. Thats quite a few people - and I'm considered a "mickey mouse" farmer by some. Currently I easily afford the minimum wage, I pay my "senior" a lot more, and my tractor driver more than the labourers.

I give the guys a farm production bonus plus a 13th cheque based on performance (ie attendance, mistakes through the year etc) I refuse to pay someone who pulls his weight  the same as a lazier employee. We live in an area with a high population and very few employment opportunities besides agriculture.

So here's where I'm going with this - supply and demand. I don't agree you should be allowed to exploit labour purely due to supply and demand circumstances, I in fact think it is a risky mentality that could backfire one day violently. So a fair wage given the circumstances is the correct and fair solution.

The minimum wage is negotiated nationally, not taking into consideration that different farming enterprises differ greatly in profitability. Its too complicated to negotiate a wage for each sector, so a general minimum is decided. The onus is then on the farmer who is making huge profits to reward his labour accordingly.

The onus is on the labour force to acknowledge that in some years they will get a good bonus, others none - and accept that. The problem is when the politically motivated encourage labour to ignore facts, and when greedy farmers give no reward in good years. If the minimum wage is pushed too high, certain sectors of the farming industry will not be able to afford them and collapse - not a good result for anyone.

If the minimum wage is too low, it will cause resentment and a backlash - which could result in farm grabs, violence, death - so it needs to be fair. Its a pity the ANC and its buddies are using this real issue as a tool to undermine DA rule in the WC. Its actually cruel - and so obvious, as nothing is happening in any other province, where labour abuse may be prevalent. Political parties need to try honesty in dealing with this issue, people should not just be used as pawns for a political objective, its obscene.

The current minimum wage was negotiated and has ANC approval all over it, its time they opened their mouths and appeased the people getting aggressive about it, and start negotiating in good faith with agriculture as to a solution instead of sitting back smugly watching people suffer in a province they lost control of. Just be honest, is all I ask - and farmers must also come to the party, those guilty of doing wrong must be put right.

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