Farm protests political, says Agri SA

2012-11-14 17:06
Robertson farmworker protest (Picture: Johan Cloete, News24 User)

Robertson farmworker protest (Picture: Johan Cloete, News24 User)

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Pretoria - Protests by farmworkers in the Western Cape were not only about wages, Agri SA said in Pretoria on Wednesday.

"This is the worst violence that we have ever experienced," Agri SA Western Cape president Cornie Swart said.

"For sure it is forces from the outside. It is political."

Agri SA national president Johannes Moller said the trade association believed wage negotiations should take place between farmers and workers.

"Give farmworkers [an] opportunity to negotiate with farmers on farm level."

Grape harvesters in the Hex River Valley have been protesting for over a week about their wages, demanding R150 a day. Most earn between R69 and R75 a day, with R80 being the highest and only offer from farmers so far.

According to reports on Wednesday, protests were taking place in 16 towns across the province and several workers had been arrested for public violence.

"We are not trying to defend the R70," Moller said.

Workers' wages were determined every March by the Employment Conditions Commission, he said.

However the industry was very labour intensive and wages accounted for 45 percent of farmers production costs per year. This amounted to R1.5bn.

"So just a small increase will push this a lot higher."

Moller said the protests could have far-reaching structural changes in the agricultural industry if it resulted in jobs being shed, instead of creating them. It could also have an effect on buyers.

"It will have a major impact on the country as a whole."

He said a possible unconventional employment effort could be to employ more people from the same family. This would increase a family's income.

However it would limit the amount of families that were employed by the agricultural industry.

"So whatever decision you make it will have a serious impact," he said.

Moller also denied reports about farmers in the Western Cape area being murdered.

"We have heard stories about farmers being killed. This is not true."

- SAPA
Read more on:    agri sa  |  cape town  |  agriculture  |  labour  |  farmworker protests
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