National

Strike will resume if workers' demands are not met

Aneesa Fazel

Minister of Agriculture Tina Joemat-Pettersson and farm workers' organisations have agreed to suspend the workers' strike for two weeks.

The ­minimum wage for farm ­workers labouring for nine hours a day is R69.39, but farmers who can afford to can pay more. (David Harrison, M&G)

Cosatu Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said that the department of labour would review the national minimum wage of farm workers during this time and in the interim a minimum wage of R80 would be implemented.

But if the government did not accept the workers' demands of R150 a day, the strike would continue on December 4.

He added that "no disciplinary action or victimisation will be taken against workers who participated in the strike".

The Employment Conditions Commission has been asked to assist in determining a new minimum wage for the sector.

Its acting director for employment standards, Titus Mtsweni, said that decisions taken to determine the minimum wage for the farming sector involved a long process of research and investigations.

Affordability
"Prior to coming up with a minimum wage, the commission engages with all the relevant stakeholders in determining the wage.

"The law provides criteria, such as affordability for employers, poverty alleviation, cost of living and other factors that must be taken into consideration."

The sectoral determination for farm work in South Africa provides details of the current minimum wages for employees. For the period March 1 2012 to February 28 2013, the minimum hourly rate is R7.71. The maximum working hours a day is nine hours, totalling about R69.39 as the minimum wage a day for farm workers.

Mtsweni said the amount was a minimum and did not mean that farmers who were capable of paying their workers more should not do so.

Minimum wage
"There are farm workers who have been working for over 10 or 20 years. It would make sense to think that someone working for so long would get a better wage."

He said the minimum wage applied to all farms.

"The reason why we do not look at certain farms that could possibly be bringing in high profits is because the law does not require us to do that.

"We cannot guarantee that these farms will always make a profit, hence we set a minimum wage for all farms - small, medium and large."

South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union negotiator Jane Barrett, who represented organised labour at the commission before the R70 minimum wage was decided, said the commission had only advisory powers and that the final decision regarding the minimum wage rested with the minister of labour.

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