Cosatu Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich.  Picture: THE TIMES
Cosatu Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich. Picture: THE TIMES

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.