Farmers’ union backs wage hikes

2013-01-31 00:00

FARM workers deserve to be adequately compensated, the KwaZulu-Natal National African Farmers Union (Nafu) said yesterday.

Union president Dr Mandla Buthelezi said the union supported the wage increase that is due to be proposed by the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC), reported to be R105 a day.

“The people should be paid accordingly because they work very hard … we are not saying they should be paid the money they are asking for [R150 per day]. We are saying they should be paid at least close to that amount,” said Buthelezi.

Business Day reported yesterday that the ECC looks set to suggest a new minimum wage of about R105 a day for farm workers — an increase of more than 50%.

On Monday, Labour Minister of Mildred Oliphant is to announce a new minimum wage for farm workers that will take effect from March 1.

Buthelezi declined to say what the union’s members were paying or how much they were willing to pay their employees.

He said there were concerns that some of their members would not be able to afford the proposed amount, but that should not condone bad wages.

Johan Pienaar, deputy executive director of Agri SA, warned that an excessive wage increase would result in bankruptcies and unemployment.

“We had made recommendations that the sector can survive with the wages of R80 a day; anything above that will see a totally restructured agriculture with much unemployment,” said Pienaar.

“The minister would need to avoid making a popular decision when she announces the new minimum wage.”

An investigation by the ECC in 2011 and 2012 into farming found there was a need to balance the demands of employers and employees.

It found that escalation in food prices posed a serious challenge for farm workers who were being paid the minimum wage.

Attempts to get comment from the Agri SA local affiliate, Kwanalu, were unsuccessful yesterday.

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