Tough stance against farmworker abuse

Cape Town - Hortgro, the umbrella industry body for a number of deciduous fruit and related industries, has re-committed itself and its producer members to enhance worker welfare and compliance with labour legislation.

Anton Rabe, executive director of Hortgro, re-confirmed in a statement released on Monday that any transgression of legislation and non-compliance with the minimum wage dispensation are unacceptable.

Hortgro will pro-actively assist with enforcement and corrective action where required.

“The fruit sector has an independent, legitimate and transparent national platform in the Sustainability Initiative of SA (Siza) through which compliance with labour standards can be measured and demonstrated by individual producers," said Rabe.

"Siza is widely recognised by international and domestic trade stakeholders and will be able to provide facts and statistics relating to compliance with labour legislation, health and safety issues, as well as minimum wages."

The Siza platform also provides for assistance with proposed corrective actions through which producers can embark on a process of continuous improvement relating to working and living conditions on farms.

“This will not only differentiate employers with regard to proven compliance, but will also ensure that broad generalisations that 'all farmers are non-compliant' could be refuted as inaccurate, unfair and irresponsible,” said Rabe.

The Siza platform is open to all agri-sectors and he encouraged all agri-employers to show their commitment to fair, ethical and legally compliant labour practices via participation in Siza or equivalent platforms.

If any cases of non-compliance are found, Hortgro has undertaken to assist its members to ensure corrective action is taken.

Any unilateral behaviour by employers to negatively adjust the working and wage conditions of workers contra to the parameters contained within legislation, will not be tolerated.

Rabe stated that a transparent and clear policy and procedure to deal with alleged or real issues have been developed with input from various stakeholders.

He trusts that this procedure will become a standard endorsed by all stakeholders as the model to constructively address the socio-economic and labour issues in rural areas.

"There are huge challenges on many fronts in rural areas. The sector as a whole needs to be part of the solution to these issues, but it cannot be held responsible for all that is wrong. Nor can it be expected to provide and fund solutions without the support and participation of the other social partners," he said.

"Fruit producers individually and collectively can now take a stance against any alleged human rights abuses by removing the space for opportunists and those wishing to destroy the agri-sector by continued manipulation of public perceptions based on half-truths, rhetoric, populist statements and generalisations based on exceptions."

Tabe regards the progress made by the sector to ensure independent ethical accreditation as a sound basis for further development and continuous improvement in this sphere.

- Fin24

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