Farmworkers hand over memorandum

2012-12-04 16:01
A group of about 300 people went to Agri Wes-Cape's office in Paarl to demand higher wages. (@Die_Burger, via Twitter)

A group of about 300 people went to Agri Wes-Cape's office in Paarl to demand higher wages. (@Die_Burger, via Twitter)

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Cape Town - Hundreds of Western Cape farmworkers marched in Paarl on Tuesday to hand over a memorandum of demands for improved labour conditions, Women on Farms said.

Spokesperson Carmen Louw said workers made their way to the Agri Wes-Cape building on Market Street on Tuesday morning.

"The march is going very well. We have handed over a memorandum and are now marching to the labour department in Paarl," she said.

The group was demanding that farmers immediately agree to pay a minimum wage of R150 a day, echoing the demands of workers across the province in recent protests.

It also wanted farmers to stop using labour brokers, stop evicting workers and to implement a bargaining council for the agriculture sector.

Agri Wes-Cape spokesperson Porchia Adams said about 300 men and women gathered outside its offices on Tuesday morning.

They handed over a list of demands to CEO Carl Opperman before peacefully dispersing.


She said no incidents of major violence linked to farmworkers' protests in the province had been reported.

"The only incident we've heard of so far happened in Groendal, Franschhoek, where a group of people were throwing stones at a lorry full of people going to work."

She could not confirm reports that two people had been shot with rubber bullets.

In Worcester, a group of people danced, sang and burned tyres early in the morning.

Worcester police spokesperson Captain Mzikayise Moloi said the fires had been extinguished and the situation was under control.

Western Cape police spokesperson Andre Traut said he had no reports of violence and would issue a summary of incidents, if any, only at the end of the day.

Farmworkers want a daily wage of R150 and better living conditions.

Table grape harvesters started protesting last month in De Doorns, where most workers earned between R69 and R75 a day.

The protests spread to 15 other towns, and resulted in two deaths and the destruction of property.

Public hearings

Farmworkers suspended the strike to allow the Employment Conditions Commission to review the sectoral determination for agriculture.

However, they announced they would resume the strike on Tuesday after Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said it would be impossible to address their demands by their December 4 deadline.

Oliphant said the sectoral determination was put in place in March this year and could legally be reviewed again only in 12 months.

In the meantime, the department would continue holding public hearings on a new sectoral determination.

On Monday, Oliphant called for peaceful protests, and said violence had no place in a democratic society.

She said farmers should continue talking to workers to try and find a resolution to their grievances.

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos.

Read more on:    cape town  |  labour  |  farmworker protests

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