Fruit, wine and labour create new forum

Paarl - A bold step towards improved labour relations in the Western Cape’s fruit and wine sectors was taken when two key industry bodies, Hortgro and VinPro, and a national trade union in agriculture, Food & Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

This follows after just more than two years of open and frank, but at the same time amicable discussions involving top representatives of the three parties, with facilitators. The forum will be known as the Laborie Dialogue Initiative and provides a sound platform to expand the initiative to a true multi-stakeholder relationship.

The MOU spells out the parties’ commitment to building a long-term relationship based on co-operation, openness and trust, as well as the parties’ shared aim of ensuring sustained, long-term growth, prosperity and profitability of the fruit and wine industries, while focusing on the improvement of the lives of the workers and the communities in these industries represented by the parties.

The MOU confirms the parties’ commitment to the six focus areas of development identified in the Fruit Industry Social Compact (FISC) and Wine 2020 Vision. These are economic development, social development and upliftment, human resource development, market access, development and trade promotion, knowledge management and information systems and technical research, transfer and intelligence.

As this initiative produces tangible results, the aim is to gradually extend the agreement on invitation to other interested industry and employee groups and bodies in the agricultural value-chain. It is also envisaged that all tiers of government and NGO’s should eventually be brought on board on a provincial and national level.

The following issues were identified to be tackled as initial priorities in order to align, coordinate and fast track existing initiatives of the various stakeholders:

- The full spectrum of housing and ownership, provision of alternative housing for retirees, including liaising with government regarding evictions and re-location;

- Social welfare issues in rural communities;

- Trade constraints, including market access and development issues;

- Non-compliance with labour legislation, mechanisms to proactively resolve conflict, training and the raising of awareness by all stakeholders.

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