Farmworkers force govt's hand on wages

2012-11-14 22:19

Cape Town - Western Cape farmworkers on Wednesday forced the government's hand by agreeing to suspend their protests on the condition that their R70 a day minimum wage be renegotiated.

Acting Labour Minister Angie Motshekga said the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) had consulted workers and it was agreed they would return to work on Thursday and desist from violence and vandalism.

The suspension was on condition that the sectoral determination for agriculture be looked at by the Employment Condition Commission next Wednesday.

This meant the R70 a day minimum wage for farmworkers would be cancelled and renegotiated.

Motshekga was addressing reporters in Cape Town, on behalf of Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, who was out of the country.

Grape harvesters in the Hex River Valley have been protesting for more than a week about their wages, demanding R150 a day.

Most earn between R69 and R75 a day, with R80 being the highest and only offer from farmers so far.

Sixteen towns in the province have been affected by the protest action, including blocked roads and burning tyres.

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson described the labour action as a service delivery strike, and said workers in De Doorns, for instance, wanted housing and basic services.

She condemned those who said the matter was purely political.

"This is not a political matter. This an initiative of workers themselves. This is indeed a service delivery strike."


Agri SA said on Wednesday said it was definitely a political matter.

"This is the worst violence that we have ever experienced... For sure it is forces from the outside. It is political," Agri SA Western Cape president Cornie Swart said.

"People are being driven in by buses and taxis. It's not a strike. It's a total, political, blown-up thing."

The labour department expressed condolences to the family of a farmworker killed in Wolseley on Wednesday morning and called for an end to violence by workers and victimisation by farmers.

Western Cape police confirmed that a man had been killed as a result of police action and five other people injured during protests in Wolseley.

Lieutenant Colonel André Traut said the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) would investigate.

IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini said an investigator was on his way to the scene where the protester was shot to get more details.

"I can confirm that one person was killed. However, we only have a report that three were injured. An investigator is on his way to gather more details."

Joemat-Pettersson said her state security and police counterparts, Siyabonga Cwele and Nathi Mthethwa, would "engage further in the matter".

"To give information now [on the death] would be very clumsy and irresponsible," she said.

Ethical trading

The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said two photographers were injured while covering protests during the day.

"This morning [Wednesday] Mandla Mnyakama, a photographer from the Daily Sun, was allegedly shot in the back with a rubber bullet by police whilst covering unrest near Robertson in the Western Cape," Sanef chairperson Mondli Makhanya said.

He said Mnyakama was hurt, but that his primary concern was the "treatment" he received from the police.

Die Burger photographer Lulama Zenzile was hurt in the same protest, while standing about 18m from the police.

"He was taken to a clinic, and after X-rays confirmed his nose was not broken, he was discharged," Makhanya said.

Sanef was still waiting for a response from the police.

A notice indicating the intent to call all interested parties to comment on the sectoral determination will be published by next Friday.

Joemat-Pettersson said the sectoral determination could only be revised once a year.

A revision would affect all farmworkers across the country, regardless of produce.

Trade and industry minister Rob Davies, fresh from a visit to Brazil on wine-related matters, said the government needed to look into the ethical trading of wine.

"I'm not surprised there's been an explosion of this sort," he said.

"I think there's a link between the conditions of farmworkers, the degree to which they are seen to benefit from the fruits of the industry and the ability to market this product internationally."

He would re-visit proposals to carry "ethical trading" stickers on wine bottles from farms with fair labour practices.

  • Desilusionada - 2012-11-14 22:29

    It all boils down to freedom movement trying to be a government. Its one thing fighting the struggle, but quite another to run a country. Especially as the expertise is being marginalised, and sacrificed on an altar of ideology...

  • nicrsa - 2012-11-14 22:30

    R80 a day....i'd also be striking. While i dont condone the methods, that sounds like slave labour, no wonder they so angry

      francoisjacques.malan - 2012-11-14 22:44

      Then why didn't they negotiate for better wages?! Why do they burn and kill first, and try to negotiate later?! I have no sympathy for these hooligans and hope they all lose their jobs and earn nothing! Also, why did the majority of workers not take part in this barbarism? Because they enjoy working on the farms and they probably earn a lot more than the minimum wage! I feel for the peace loving workers who had to be exposed to such violence!

      wikus.terblanche.7 - 2012-11-14 22:46

      Guy people working at Woolies gets R80p/day, you dont see them killing and breaking down... My client is a farmer, and goverment gave them these wages to work with, they get free houses, free food and clothes, no electricity bill or water bill. This is just politics..

      andreasschiemann - 2012-11-14 23:12

      But what most people seem to forget the farm workers get free housing water and electricity. the farmer has to cover all these costs. Also a farm worker can't just get kicked out his house anymore, this means he gets a free house that others pay in the hundreds of thousands of Rand for. There for make them pay for the basics they get for free then pay them more.

      ct.merwe - 2012-11-15 07:35

      @kagiso of course farmers don't pay any Taxes???!!

      longile.bongani - 2012-11-15 07:40

      They are not angry. A few bus loads of thugs who have never worked on a farm in their lives have been trucked in to cause mayhem, to try to disrupt things. They have made it quite clear their intention is to make the place ungovernable!

      bobby.rosewood.1 - 2012-11-15 09:05

      I agree. Workers are exploited because of the high unemployment figures. There's always someone willing to work for less, as people are desperate. You can get an illegal immigrant working for R20 a day! R70-R80 a day is not a living wage. We are talking about R1600 a month!! I would not ven be able to pay for my electricity, no wonder some people are stealing everything they can, they are forced to do so.

      Montagnes.Bleues - 2012-11-15 09:28

      nic, you sound as though you are extremely comfortable, sitting back in that armchair helping Lindiwe to scratch nits out of a weave? Where is the economics in a bunch of bussed in agitators causing mayhem and destroying property and destablizing an entire economy to the value of many Rmillions in order to get a few extra Rands a month - when most of the farmers were already paying MORE than the specified minimum wage? that slave labour IS DICTATED BY THE RACIST ANT-DEMOCRATIC ANC and they should be burning that ANC doors down.

  • dylan.mugabe - 2012-11-14 22:38

    Bad bad bad bad bad.

  • davy.botha - 2012-11-14 22:43

    All that happened is that goverment showed that lawlesness pays.

  • janebraker - 2012-11-14 22:44

    This is a very well put together piece from SAPA. Well selected, News24.

  • EricksonTL - 2012-11-14 22:47

    All good. Insist on a proportionate (53%) increase in productivity. Or pay based on results. Anyone who pays their low level employees by the day is going to get fleeced. Dis mos lekker om onder 'n boom te sit...

      roger.kaputnick.90 - 2012-11-15 02:55

      Mechanize ando fire the lot of them!

  • lacrimose.wolf - 2012-11-14 22:47

    So the Alliance sets down the minimum wage, every year and there's no murmur when it is announced at the beginning of the year. Then at the end of the year, they burn, maim, kill and generally cause mayhem and untold destruction because of something employees, Unions and govt knew about for at least 8 months. The lunatics are truly running the asylumn

  • Cameron - 2012-11-14 22:50

    The farmers should keep some of the wage increases to make up for the damage to their property and the losses that were made during the strike

      penny.stone.589 - 2012-11-14 23:04

      No, it will be you and I paying. The farmers claim from insurances and insurances increase their premiums. And so the the cookie crumbles... er, I mean so the country degenerates...

      andreasschiemann - 2012-11-14 23:14

      They should keep it all as re-numeration for the housing water and electricity most farm workers get for free!

  • Marietjie.martin05 - 2012-11-14 22:51

    Why not give them R100 a day???

      mark.a.fysh - 2012-11-14 23:26

      Marietjie. Why not give them cake? I am fed up with comments like this. Minimum wage is paid to new unskilled employees as per gvt dictate. Average wages are FAR higher than that. Nevermind housing water and lights, uniforms etc.

  • altus.kirsten - 2012-11-14 22:53

    Phillip, we call it BEE. It does not work. Profits are too low in table grapes to be shared if any? The illusion is created that farmers are loaded. That is not true. All profits are used to replant new cultivars that improves profits. The farms are worth a lot, but the product is worth nothing.

  • andreasschiemann - 2012-11-14 23:09

    Use bullets, create jobs by getting rid of idiots that are ANC puppets. Take the money away from opening of parliament and other useless government expenditures and use it to enrich the lives of those that are striking. Oh sorry ANC won't allow that, they to greedy. SA will be the next Zimbabwe if this carries on!

  • Erna - 2012-11-14 23:22

    Acting labour minister Angie Motshega! She can't cope with her education portfolio never mind another one. Why do we have deputy ministers?

  • jc.smit - 2012-11-14 23:31

    Strikes are suspended yet they started striking in Swellendam at 9pm tonight on the N2, burning tyres once again, no vineyard insight for 50km, politically driven to create unrest in an already unstable municipality... Everyone just jumping on the bandwagon not knowing what's going on.

      miandra.vanzyl - 2012-11-15 01:10

      Kagiso go and get your facts. Don't just listen to people who have been spoon feed. Workers have houses with electricity, play schools, get meat, etc don't generalised there are farmers who give shares in their farms. If they have a problem with a certain farmer tell the minister. Farms get audits from overseas. I'm very liberal but tonight I'm sad as the government is creating hate amongst liberals and good people. Lots of workers are scared tonight they are so happy but these people are setting their houses alight etc

      Adil Smit - 2012-11-15 07:16

      Kagiso, why could they not embark on a legal,peaceful strike, go to the CCMA like other people do instead of assulting people,burning down property?

  • declan.kelly.54 - 2012-11-15 00:03

    Maybe the police and government are now realising what the "apartheid" government was up against. I wonder if the resulting violence will go down the same way in history. The honeymoon is over, guys. Enjoy!

  • declan.kelly.54 - 2012-11-15 00:04

    Don't get me wrong... These people should be earning more.

      wim.kotze.9 - 2012-11-15 08:54

      These people should be producing more.

  • miandra.vanzyl - 2012-11-15 00:58

    Media is not giving the full truth. Its political how can you burn down farms shops where owners are liberal and paying bursaries for their workers children to study further. They don't care they have burnt a well known ex springbok coloured rugby player parents farm, set alight Indian shops and fruit farm. What the heck. ANC is turning all the liberals against them!!!!! I can't believe this. How can you set alight a factory where 500 workers are working??? Where will they get work. Tonight in many towns a lot of strikes, burning tyres etc. Get your facts

      Bobbycat - 2012-11-15 05:11

      Here's a question... How do people go from earning their wage for the last how many years, with the same small levels of increase - to a violent protest and mass action. Not on one farm, but multiple farms across multiple areas? In the space of a week, and almost immediately violent, burning crops and buildings? Also asking for over double their existing wage (marikana anyone?). It doesn't seem "organic" - excuse the pun.

      wim.kotze.9 - 2012-11-15 09:07

      The ANC has enough illiterate voters, a few misguided "liberals" will not be missed.

      miandra.vanzyl - 2012-11-15 09:18

      In Swellendam people can't go to work and Black and Coloured matrics can't write exams today. How can you do this to your own nation????? I feel for people not earning much, but rather get around a table then this uproar!!

  • hugh.robinson.56 - 2012-11-15 01:09

    The real problem is that government is playing a double hand. They blame the farmers and capitalists for the lack of wages and the finer things in life. This cause a diversion from reality of the government's failures. Behind this smoke screen is the extra that has been foisted on the businessman in the form of taxes. An example Diesel being on average R12.20 - 12.45 /lt. increasing operational costs and loss of production. Lastly government ambiguously using underhand threats of violence as if the Marikana massacre was the fault of business for not paying a fair wage.

      Bobbycat - 2012-11-15 05:16

      But they'll turn around and call it a "service delivery issue"

  • cvdwesthuizen - 2012-11-15 01:16

    See how much the farmers can afford now that their products and assets have been destroyed... Biting the hand that feeds you? A principle we all should know.

  • cvdwesthuizen - 2012-11-15 01:18

    Please someone interview one of the farmworkers and hear what they have to say.... We have not heard anything from anyone but representatives. Stop the propaganda, SA should be over that now.

      Michelle Anne Mimi Heckler - 2012-11-15 06:56

      Makes you think whats really going on if the farmers aren't speaking themselves... i feel sorry for the farmers... as well as our pockets when everything goes up because of this nonsense...

  • miandra.vanzyl - 2012-11-15 01:23

    Tony how much are you paying your domestic worker or the gentleman working in your garden? Did you provide them with houses, free electricity and water? Do you drive their sick children to the hospital or must they take a taxi? Do they get free fruit and meat from you? Ohh I don't think you know what's going in their lives as you are too busy trying to buy yourself a political career!!

  • Mary Milne Archibald - 2012-11-15 02:40

    Government is setting a precedent in giving in to thugs and bullies. Every person not happy with wages and employment conditions have now been given the green light to engage in violence and destruction of private property with no other consequence than a wage increase.

  • tiaan.truter - 2012-11-15 03:20

    On the one hand you cant really blame them for asking more money,since everything is getting more expensive,on the other hand They are approaching this completely wrong by burning everything down and acting like hooligans.This goes both ways...

  • nico.eksteen.7 - 2012-11-15 04:33

    The real losers will be us, the consumers. Get ready for extraordinary price hikes in future.

  • richard.lemmer1 - 2012-11-15 06:02

    How many of the readers have R1500 per month after paying rent , transport , electricity , and food ??? Makes you think doesn't it !

  • Strikeback - 2012-11-15 06:13

    "Farmworkers forced the hand of government". So, this is how one get the government to listen - Force! If it works for some, it will work for all!

      Ze Don - 2012-11-15 07:06

      So we should burn down all the e-toll gantries and Sanral offices and then maybe the government will listen to us about toll roads... good point! ;-)

  • haroldcecil - 2012-11-15 06:18

    Off course this was a political matter and was instigated by Gwede Mantashe a month or so ago when he warned the Farming industry that this was gonna happen.Big ups 2 u Mantashe 4 instigating this and fighting against ur own ANC goverment.U really out did urselve

  • kimard - 2012-11-15 06:32

    start an international seasonal agricultural workers program and get rid of these thugs i dont have a problem with protests but i have a problem with damaging property and murder

  • dave.robbins.3344 - 2012-11-15 06:37

    As a farmer, we are advised by our Farming Association what the minimum wage amounts are 1) per hour, 2) per day, 3) per week or 4) per month. These are the figures set by government, normally around the time of the Budget (February/March). This is what we base our costing and pricing of our products on. If this is suddenly changed, will we be able to also suddenly change our pricing to the people we supply? I think not as there are contracts in place, etc. From a personal perspective, I pay by the hour (current minimum wage is R7.71 - I pay R9.00) because I have picking "bursts" (early morning before heat) so that the staff are not here the whole day. Unemployment in the area runs at 86% (according to the local municipality - probably higher), so I am seen as an important job creator. If there is to be a dramatic shift in the hourly rate, there will need to be a subsidy to me, because I will have to close up shop based on pure economics.

      dave.robbins.3344 - 2012-11-15 06:54

      To my above comment, I add the link to what we have to pay:

  • christi.roestorff - 2012-11-15 06:39

    I'll only drink beer from now on, the whole production process is completely mechanized and I won't have to worry about these poor workers any more. I wonder how much extra through sin tax gov will be making when prices increase?

  • Arno Lotz - 2012-11-15 06:56

    als gaan suiwer oor politiek,Joemat,skrik wakker.maak oop jou oe!Mantashe die vark het n rukkie trug die germors begin met sy belaglike uitlatings.

  • agagiano - 2012-11-15 07:02

    Strike still going in Bonnievale!

  • Greypatriot - 2012-11-15 07:14

    The workers unrest is politically inspired. That must be accepted. It is part of the wider economic freedom pursuit. The only way to stop this type of revolution and bring back harmony is by establishing fairness in the application and utilization of human capital.

      kimard - 2012-11-15 07:53

      the gap is humongous - always remember and my old time favorite: 1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. 2. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong 3. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich. 4. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. 5. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence. 6. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. 7. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. 8. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income. 9. You cannot establish security on borrowed money. 10 You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves.

  • mullervince - 2012-11-15 07:15

    Farmers should hit back and boycott the the market for a year. Wonder how South Africa will survive then without food, and who will be on their knees??? It seems that idiotism in the ruling party is far greater than what we thought. Why is the rest of Africa ruled by intellegent parties, obtaining the services of our experienced farmers. Funny the high cost of living in South Africa is always blamed on something else, except on the ANC, for creating all types of increases and taxes. And again, this will materialise in higher food prices. I guess it's not easy being stupid.

      alvin.ntsethe - 2012-11-15 09:47

      Tht will never happen farners need profit as well!

      alvin.ntsethe - 2012-11-15 09:47

      Tht will never happen farners need profit as well!

  • lorna.sisusa - 2012-11-15 07:18

    R80 a day???.. Who would ever live with such amount, that's a slave labour. And as far as I understand, Private sector is the one that makes profit more than government. Clearly definition of Apartheid. I don't encourage strikes but if I was one of the workers, I was also gonna fight for what I deserve

      willie.v.tonder - 2012-11-15 08:14

      Slaves don't get paid my dear. How is it a definition of apartheid if the private sector makes profit. It sounds more like a definition of a free market and capitalism. It is not government's purpose to make profit. Government's purpose is to serve the people who voted for them to be there. Its not their purpose to rule over us. No one rules over us. We are free. I agree with the R80 a day. That's peanuts. Those rich farmers should start looking after their employers, starting with a decent wage.

      willie.v.tonder - 2012-11-15 08:14

      Slaves don't get paid my dear. How is it a definition of apartheid if the private sector makes profit. It sounds more like a definition of a free market and capitalism. It is not government's purpose to make profit. Government's purpose is to serve the people who voted for them to be there. Its not their purpose to rule over us. No one rules over us. We are free. I agree with the R80 a day. That's peanuts. Those rich farmers should start looking after their employers, starting with a decent wage.

      dottie.fourie - 2012-11-15 08:48

      Lorna you give them work

  • longile.bongani - 2012-11-15 07:24

    Farming is already one of the least profitable industries in thsi country. Because a few wealthy wine farmers may be able to afford to increase wages, does not mean that struggling farmers across teh contry can afford to increase wages even to R80 per day, let alone R150. Farmers will be foced to go to the banks, borrow money and buy machinery to do the work. This rubbish about giving them a living wage is absolute BS. Farm workers already spend at least 50% of their current incoem on alcohol and are still fit. strong and healthy. Thet are provided for entirely by the farmers, accommodation, water, electricity, transport, medical, absolutely everything is providsed for them. They buy one bag of maize meal per month for about R200 and spend the other R800 on drink. They are being paid 5 X the african average and their cost of living is less than the average in Africa. The more people the farmer can afford to employ, the more productive he can be, leading to more jobs being created. DEmand that they pay R150 per day, a few wealthy wine farmers might manage, but the majority of the farmers will simply cut their labour force in half. The other half will become the burden of the government

      Arno Lotz - 2012-11-15 08:00


  • altus.kirsten - 2012-11-15 07:25

    For every % above R80 a day, the same % of farmworkers will loose their jobs. Wages amount to 64% of production cost. Any increase will render agriculture not sustainable and the farmworker and supermarket customer will suffer. We farm with food, not gold. Margins are low. Understand Economics101 before amounts of R150 per day is thrown arround.

  • mullervince - 2012-11-15 07:25

    Lorna Just bear in mind, the private sector is not corrupt, that is why they make profits. And o yes, they are ran by competant people.

  • Gary.desousa7 - 2012-11-15 07:41

    When socialist goverments interfere with the labour market and commies create minimum wages then something has to give. We all looking at the WC but I wonder how many of the "new" empowered black farmers like those failed tea estates etc are going to pay their workers this new minimum? Both black and White farmers who cannot pay-- what do they do? retrench? The farm must offer what they can afford and workers accept if they want to.

  • izan.botes.7 - 2012-11-15 08:03

    give them the R150 but take away all pay ( for those of you you that do not know what all pay is it is your tax money that pays them a allowance every month), free housing, free electricity, free school, free transport and free medical my apologies if I forgot anything. If they do bot have money to live how do the get drunk every weekend. Our economy cant be held ransom by these dum and lazy people we must fire everyone and outlaw unions if we want to be a true capitalist state. Those who want to work will work and the government must be held responsible that their

  • Montagnes.Bleues - 2012-11-15 08:03

    ANC economics the zuma African way. PAY MORE but boycott and charge lower sales prices (as in all their minerals & resources giveaway pricing to china and the rest of the world) and provide jobs to all. There is a child grant for each and even more! Lindiwe Sisulu has arrogance to such a high level that it tops even the goo that she uses by squashing the ticks and lice to use as stabilizer in that froth of an infested nest on her head, regardless whether it is a hot sweaty stinking plastic or indian arab speciality from the "untouchables' classes. Is she next in line for the "palais royale nkandla khaya" or already 'laid' that one low in her drive for fawning at her masters feet to avoid being turfed out altogether? common girl - surely she can get another 1hr showtime extravaganza on the go to entertain the gullible. Build our Future

  • millward3 - 2012-11-15 08:05

    well said!

  • millward3 - 2012-11-15 08:08

    My friend, our country has enough issues with bringing up the past.That has nothing to with this, let us rather strive towards a positive goal rather than negative innuendos.

  • nathan.g.moss - 2012-11-15 08:09

    I agree the farm workers wage is just short of slave labour, but I’m sorry if Angie has anything to do with your wage negotiations you’re going to wait at least a year before she delivers anything.

  • millward3 - 2012-11-15 08:09

    I completely agree!

  • Montagnes.Bleues - 2012-11-15 08:18

    Just exactly how many seasonal workers were bussed in to cause all this disgruntled ANCYL & FYL agitation and destabilization of SA economy? Is there no law in SA prohibiting this subversive activity? WHERE ARE THE ZUMA "GO TO JAIL" TAPES? Build our Future

  • derek.bredenkamp.3 - 2012-11-15 08:25

    Dear Mr Farmer, if you continue to refuse to share the wealth of the land with the people, they will have no option but to take it from you.

      el.torro.509 - 2012-11-15 09:07

      You do realise that the wealth isnt actually owning the land, its the knowledge and know how to actually use the land to create wealth. Judging by the commodities traders, supermarkets and government taking their share it seems the farmer is actually left with little! Moreover i find it interesting that all these people are calling for land to be shared... shouldnt you first be asking for knowledge and training to be shared? So accept 90 rand a day and get tge farmer to put another 30 rand in trust so yiu can study agriculture

      wim.kotze.9 - 2012-11-15 09:21

      Presumably "the people" will also share in the paying of the farmers over draught?

      kimard - 2012-11-15 09:30

      ek hoop hulle vat jou huis sommer eerste idioot!

  • TheyTookMyNickLaZynEko - 2012-11-15 08:37

    For a days hard work R70 is quite pathetic unless the business/farm REALLY CAN'T afford to up the amount. We pay the cleaner at our company R150 to work for between 4 and 5 hours.

  • theMichaelHawthorne - 2012-11-15 08:37

    Who is paying for these busses. Def political.... same as when the DA went to zumaville is probably the same protestors...

  • theMichaelHawthorne - 2012-11-15 08:42

    Its not only farm workers I worked as sales at a bike shop and I got R80 per day... you know the minimum salary one requires nowaday is R30 000 a month if you need a house and a car... then you still need R150 000 deposit for the house... why can't everybody earn a set standard salary just enough to cover requirements regardless if you are a doctor or street sweeper... its possible and don't come with oh life would be so boring if everybody had everything they ever wanted bs! THE VENUS PROJECT!!!!!

  • lekgwakgwa.mohlatlole - 2012-11-15 08:43

    The government of ANC did minimum wage and the farmers pay what government agree and some pay more. I thank workers must go to Zuma government ask increase of money not to farmers.