Cosatu still informing farm workers to suspend strike

2012-11-15 09:39

It would take a bit more time to inform all Western Cape farm workers to suspend their strike, the provincial Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) has said.

“We have in many towns deployed our organisers and those of other organisations to go report back and speak to workers,” organiser Mike Louw said today.

“Unfortunately, sporadic pockets of protests are still happening, and the behaviour and actions of police have exacerbated the situation.”

Louw said workers were notified from yesterday in areas such as De Doorns, Robertson, Ceres, Wolseley, and Prince Alfred Hamlet.

Other organisations helping to spread the message were the Food and Allied Workers’ Union, the Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry, Sikhula Sonke, and the Trust for Community Outreach and Education.

“Our attempt really is to gather information now and deploy people further to go back and inform people. We are calling on farmers to be lenient and allow workers to return, even though they may return late.”

Louw said resources were stretched but the congress was confident it could enforce the suspension, despite some workers’ organisations rejecting it.

The labour department announced yesterday that farm workers would suspend their protests over wages and living conditions in 16 towns for two weeks.

Acting Labour Minister Angie Motshekga said Cosatu had consulted workers and it was agreed they would return to work today and stop violence and vandalism.

The suspension was on condition that the sectoral determination for agriculture be looked at by the Employment Condition Commission next Wednesday.

This meant the R70 a day minimum wage for farm workers would be renegotiated.

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

Indications today were that there were still protests in certain areas.

According to United Democratic Front head Mario Wanza, workers were protesting in Villiersdorp, Ashton and Swellendam. He said farm workers in Montagu had also joined the strike.

The Workers’ International Vanguard Party said it had received reports of strikes in Villiersdorp, Grabouw, Ceres, Wolseley and De Doorns, with some workers demanding R200 a day.

It said workers would continue until at least R150 per day was gazetted and labour brokers banned.

“The Cosatu leaders have tried to switch off the workers as if their struggle is a tap that can be opened and closed at will,” Workers’ International Vanguard Party spokesperson Shaheed Mahomed said.

“Workers have rejected the suspension in their thousands and the strike is still continuing.”

Mahomed alleged that three farm workers were killed during a protest in Wolseley yesterday and this had enraged workers.

Provincial police said this allegation was false and confirmed one death.

Tractor driver Michael Daniels (28) was walking to buy groceries in Wolseley when he was shot and killed, allegedly by provincial police, the Cape Times reported.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) had opened an investigation into the matter.

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