The new minimum wage for farmworkers, announced by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, "will harm the country", says commercial farmers' union TAU SA.
The wage increase would jeopardise labour relations, cause a reduction in the agriculture sector work force, and create a "climate for inflation" that would impact on consumers, it said in a statement.
Earlier, Oliphant announced a new minimum wage of R105 a day for farmworkers – up from the current R69 a day – to take effect from March 1 this year.
The Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU SA) said the increase was the result of "undue pressure and intimidation by seasonal workers", adding that this created "a precedent for future actions in other sectors". This would jeopardise labour relations.
"Secondly, small and emerging farmers in particular, certainly cannot afford these wages. [There are] concerns in certain industries [they] will not be able to pay these wages ... They will have no other choice but to reduce their workforce for the sake of financial survival."
With its announcement, government was aiding the creation of a climate for inflation "by approving several increases which will ultimately have a negative effect on consumers".
Higher minimum wages, higher electricity prices, and higher fuel prices were just some examples.
The statement quotes TAU SA president Louis Meintjes, who said organised agriculture's "motivated proposal of R80 per day ... was totally ignored".
He also warned that further unrest could occur if farmers were to implement wage increases only at the new minimum wage level.
"Other workers will be most unhappy if their fellow workers received a substantive salary increase which did not apply to those already receiving wages in excess of the minimum wage.
"Farmers will therefore have to implement an increase applicable to all pay scales which makes the situation much more difficult.
"With such increases, farmers will have no option but to invest in mechanisation, which will minimise the impact of further increases and labour unrest," Meintjes said.
In recent protests in parts of the Western Cape, farmworkers have been demanding a R150 a day minimum wage. – Sapa