Farmworkers heed call to end strike

By Drum Digital
23 January 2013

Western Cape farmworkers have largely heeded a call to return to work following a strike for a higher daily wage, Agri Wes-Cape said on Wednesday.

"All farming areas are reported to be quiet and workers are back at work," spokeswoman Porchia Adams said.

She said all permanent workers and around 60 percent of seasonal workers were back at their posts on Tuesday.

This excluded areas such as De Doorns, the epicentre of strike action, where most seasonal workers were not at work on Tuesday.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) announced on Tuesday that the strike had been called off, but said it would co-ordinate "the mother of all strikes against bad farmers" later in the year.

Farmworkers went on strike last year, demanding that the minimum daily wage be increased from R69 to R150, and that a cohesive land reform programme be implemented.

The strike was suspended a week ago on condition that Agri-SA committed to "local-level" agreements and agreed not to victimise workers.

Adams acknowledged that discipline could not always be avoided.

"Unfortunately, workers will have to go through legal disciplinary procedures if it is warranted," he said.

"Discipline in the workplace has to be consistent within the framework of labour laws. I have not heard of any cases of victimisation of farm workers by farmers/employers."

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said it was considering embarking on an international campaign to boycott the products of farmers who paid low wages and implemented "slave" conditions.

"We shall place this demand before the relevant Cosatu constitutional structures," Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said.

He called on all workers to join unions.

"Farmworkers' fear is the greatest weapon the farm owners have. The second of course is the poor organisational state of farm workers."

Jim said the union was ready to work with all Cosatu affiliates, in particular the Food and Allied Workers' Union (Fawu).

Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa said the N1 highway at De Doorns was re-opened on Wednesday morning.

He said it had been closed for a number of weeks because of protest action and damage caused to the road surface by strikers.

The road had since been fixed.

-by Sapa

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