Farm living conditions baffle minister
Johannesburg - The living conditions of some farm workers in the Free State was disturbing, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Friday.
"A caring society cannot stand by and watch as people are treated in this fashion," she said, after inspecting a compound where workers were forced to sleep directly on bed springs in cramped living areas without any ventilation.
"I will be taking this issue up with the departments of rural development and human settlements to determine whether it is not possible for them to run a project to build better houses for workers in the farms."
Oliphant and a group of labour inspectors had visited 13 farms in Bethlehem where they found "shocking levels of non-compliance by employers".
As a result, 21 prohibition notices were issued and 15 contraventions were served to employers, she said.
Prohibition notices means that area of work will cease to operate until the employer fully complies with concerns raised by inspectors.
Areas of non-compliance included failure by employers to provide their employees with protective clothing, lack of clean drinkable water, failure to induct workers on how to use machinery and general health and safety.
Oliphant said she was disturbed by the fact that some farmers who employed people from neighbouring Lesotho, seemed not to have proper permits.
"They showed us open-ended permits. I will also be talking to Home Affairs to find out if this is the best way or to maybe have them look at this issue and act accordingly," she said.
The department's target was to conduct a blitz at 31 farms. Eighteen remain.
Oliphant said her department was planning to organise a national farmers' summit once it had concluded inspections in all provinces.