WESTERN Cape farm workers say they are determined to continue striking to more than double their daily wage to R150 from R70 and improve their living conditions.
They are, however, as a good faith gesture, willing to negotiate an immediate intermediate settlement of about R130.
Western Cape agricultural workers started their demand for a higher wage about a month ago, but suspended it until tomorrow to allow negotiations between organised farmers and their various representatives to take place.
The farm workers believe their cause will become national. The strike has already spread from De Doorns to about 18 other towns in the area, with two deaths attributed to strike-related violence.
During a report back on Sunday, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said Cosatu’s role in the negotiations was helping the largely nonunionised farm workers to negotiate better conditions. He accused organised agriculture, such as Agri Wes-Cape, of not taking the farm workers’ demands seriously and of hiring “vigilantes” to take revenge.
Mr Ehrenreich described last week’s comments by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, that the sectoral wage deal could not be negotiated before March, as “disappointing and unfortunate”.
Colette Solomon, acting director of Farm on Farms Project, said farm workers were determined to settle for nothing less than R150 per day. “We also want to see an improvement in living conditions on the farms, informal settlements and in the townships .”
Nosey Pieterse, secretary- general of the Bowsi Agricultural Workers Union of South Africa, said it took at least two deaths before the farm workers’ demands were taken seriously. “Conditions on the farms have been a tinder box for a long time.”
Wouter Kriel, spokesman for Western Cape agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg, said the provincial government hoped negotiations would be conducted in good faith and peacefully.
“We really hope that both sides negotiate in good faith and peacefully.” he said.
Mr Kriel said the sector employed about 200,000 people and 20,000 jobs were created for every 5% increase in agricultural exports.
“Unfortunately the converse is also true,” he said.