Kloovenburg vows to fix worker housing

2012-11-24 12:20

Kloovenburg, the world-renowned wine and olive estate, launched a “fast-track” upgrade of worker housing this week after City Press last week exposed how dozens of women and children were living in two metal containers on the estate.

A department of labour inspection team descended on Kloovenburg this week following the report last week that the women were packed like sardines in two metal containers and two dilapidated bungalows on the farm outside Riebeek Kasteel north of Cape Town.

Multi award-winning wine and olive farmer, Pieter du Toit, said earlier this week he wasn’t aware of any dissatisfaction among his workers about their living conditions.

He said nobody had lodged any complaints about the way they live. Last week workers described their conditions to City Press as “hell”.

But late on Friday, a statement issued by the estate announced the accommodation upgrade.

“The upgrades, many of which have been on the cards for some time, have financial implications, which is why we do them in stages,” Du Toit claimed.

He said the decision followed “inflammatory” reports of the workers’ living conditions and after “speaking to certain members of our workforce”.

Last week City Press revealed how 58 people (women and children) live in two Wendy houses, two “durable” metal containers and an “additional room” on the farm.

Du Toit earlier this week slammed City Press’ report last week – to which he never responded when asked for comment at the time – and said the living conditions on his farm had nothing to do with the worker’s strike that had descended on the Western Cape and which led to outbreaks of violence.

Du Toit admitted that he paid the women R70 a day – the minimum wage – but that “those who merit it” got an additional R5 incentive bonus daily.

He said he supplied the women with not just free water and electricity, but also bunk beds and mattresses in the Wendy houses and containers.

The women living in the “additional room” only got mattresses.

The women supply their own bedding, food and transport from Cape Town to the nearest train station where he picked them up on Sundays and returned them to Fridays.

Du Toit said it was untrue that his permanent employees also live in shoddy conditions. He said his workforce was stable with little turnover.

The labour inspectors spent days at Kloovenburg this week.

Department of Labour spokesperson Page Boikanyo said the inspectors were scrutinising Du Toit’s basic conditions of employment.

He said they were not inspecting the living conditions of the workers as such.

He said a report would be submitted to Du Toit and that there were “issues”. He said he couldn’t further elaborate.

On Friday afternoon Du Toit said: “At the moment, we’re replacing broken doors and windows, repainting, and have a plumber and electrician on site doing a complete inspection of all installations and repairs where necessary.”

Du Toit had now decided to remove the wooden bungalows and two containers and replace them with “new container housing”.

“Containers have many advantages over more traditional housing structures, and are fast becoming a strong, cost-effective and eco-friendly accommodation solution not only in South African but elsewhere in the world,” he claimed, adding: “We will also be providing a container ablution facility with showers for the seasonal workers”.

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