Farm protests: No major incidents

2012-12-04 13:03
Farmworkers protest in the Western Cape. (File, AFP)

Farmworkers protest in the Western Cape. (File, AFP)

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Cape Town - There have been no reports of major violence linked to farmworkers' protests in the Western Cape, Agri Wes-Cape said on Tuesday.

"The only incident we've heard of so far happened in Groendal, Franschhoek, where a group of people were throwing stones at a lorry full of people going to work," said Agri Wes-Cape spokesperson Porchia Adams.

Police intervened and the group dispersed before anyone was injured.

Adams could not confirm reports that two farmworkers were shot with rubber bullets.

In Worcester, a group of people danced, sang and burned tyres early in the morning.

Worcester police spokesperson Captain Mzikayise Moloi said the fires had been extinguished and the situation was under control.

Western Cape police spokesperson Andre Traut said he had no reports of violence and would issue a summary of incidents, if any, only at the end of the day.

Farmworkers want a daily wage of R150 and better living conditions.

Table grape harvesters started protesting last month in De Doorns, where most workers earned between R69 and R75 a day.

The protests spread to 15 other towns, and resulted in two deaths and the destruction of property.

Farmworkers suspended the strike to allow the Employment Conditions Commission to review the sectoral determination for agriculture.

However, they announced they would resume the strike on Tuesday after Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said it would be impossible to address their demands by their December 4 deadline.

Oliphant said the sectoral determination was put in place in March this year and could legally be reviewed again only in 12 months.

In the meantime, the department would continue holding public hearings on a new sectoral determination.

On Monday, Oliphant called for peaceful protests, and said violence had no place in a democratic society.

She said farmers should continue talking to workers to try and find a resolution to their grievances.

Agri-SA resumed its discussions with unions and labour department officials on Monday, but did not put a monetary offer on the table.

According to Agri-SA labour committee head Anton Rabe, Oliphant indicated that any undertaking by agriculture to immediately increase wages would hold no legal status.

However, it was agreed that wages should preferably, and in most cases, be higher than the minimum wage.

Wages should be negotiated at farm level and performance bonuses should be used to supplement income.

There should be a balance in policies between farm profitability and the sector's ability to provide quality employment.

Rabe said workers' dissatisfaction was not only over wages, but a variety of social concerns, and was mainly among seasonal workers, who had to earn their annual income over a period of just a few months.

- SAPA

Read more on:    agri sa  |  mildred oliphant  |  cape town  |  agriculture  |  labour  |  farmworker protests
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