Farmworkers threaten more militant protests

2012-11-18 22:27

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Johannesburg - Farmworkers on Sunday threatened to go back to the streets if their demand of a R150 minimum wage was not heeded.

The Coalition of Farm Worker Representatives said that the strike by farmworkers had been suspended until government made a determination on the minimum wage.

"We have given the government until 4 December to institute the minimum wage of R150 per day and to concede to our other demands that farmworker are in the process of gathering.

"If they do not do so, 4 December will see the intensification of protest actions, both in scope and in militancy," said the organisation's spokesperson Billy Xabela.

He said the organisation rejected views that the strike in the Western Cape farms was the outcome of interventions by outside forces.

"We recognise that some workers have decided to return to work for now and some to continue striking.

"Our immediate task is to support farmworkers whether they are back at work or still striking." Xabela said government both at national and provincial level had "consistently" listened to the farmers rather than the farmworkers.

"To date it is only the minister of agriculture that has shown an interest in the protests of the farmworkers."


He condemned the behaviour of the police during the strike and said they conducted themselves as "thugs".

The organisation also demanded the release of farmworkers who had been arrested for intimidation and public violence during the strike. Over the weekend, police continued to monitor areas of the Western Cape which had been affected by the protests of striking farmworkers.

On Friday, 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.

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.

The labour department met with various farmers' unions on Friday and negotiations are set to start on 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 farmworkers, which prescribes minimum wages and conditions of employment.

About 300 farmworkers who went on strike in Wolseley in the Western Cape returned to work on Friday, 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 farmworkers' minimum wage.

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