Rubber bullets fired at striking farmworkers

2013-01-09 12:41
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Farm protests in Western Cape

Hundreds of protesters resumed wage strikes resulting in clashes between farmworkers and the police. See the pictures.

De Doorns - Police fired rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of striking farmworkers in the Western Cape on Wednesday, the first clashes of a year that looked set to be dominated by fractious labour relations.

Strikers set up barricades of burning tyres on the N1 highway 100km east of Cape Town and pelted passing vehicles with stones, according to a Reuters reporter.

Scores of riot police backed by at least one armoured vehicle responded with volleys of rubber bullets to keep the protesters from the roadside.

South Africa saw waves of labour unrest last year that began in the platinum mining industry and swept through the trucking and agriculture sectors.

Minimum wage

The farmworker strike in the Western Cape follows a similar walkout in December in which warehouses were set on fire and at least two workers died in clashes with police.

The farmworkers, many of them seasonal workers employed to pick and pack fruit on farms, want their minimum daily wage of R69 more than doubled to R150.

"We are struggling. It is very difficult to survive on R69 a day. School is starting and we don't have money for school clothes," said Lena Lottering, 35, a mother of three.

"There is no food on the table and my children often go to bed hungry."

Another worker, Aubrey Louw, 47, told Reuters he had worked on the farms since the 1970s when he received R45 a day.

"Now we get R65. What is that? We want R150. Farmers would rather employ security guards and buy new cars than pay us," he said.

When talks to avert the strike broke down this week, union leaders blamed the intransigence of the white farmers.

"We have been met with naked racism and white arrogance," said union leader Nosey Pieterse, general secretary of the Bawsi Agricultural Workers Union of South Africa.

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Read more on:    cape town  |  agriculture  |  labour  |  farmworker protests  |  strikes
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