UNION leaders involved in the farm workers’ strike have shrugged off a call by the Western Cape African National Congress (ANC) to suspend the industrial action.
Instead they say the strike will be intensified, especially in the De Doorns area, where they claim farmers have been the most reluctant to negotiate.
The key table grape growing region centred on the Hex River Valley town of De Doorns has been the centre of violent protests as workers demand an increase in their statutory daily minimum wage to R150 from the current R69.
On Friday, ANC Western Cape leader Marius Fransman issued a statement calling its labour movement ally, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the Bawsi Agricultural Workers Union of SA (Bawusa) to suspend the strike on fears that it was being taken over by a criminal element.
Cosatu Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said he had not seen the ANC statement and that the unions had not called the strike so could not call it off.
"No I don’t think this will lead to tensions between us (Cosatu) and the ANC. The workers called the strike spontaneously and asked us to handle the negotiations on their behalf with the farmers," said Mr Ehrenreich.
"While we appreciate calls from people to end the strike peacefully, including the ANC, only the workers can call it off," he said.
Bawusa secretary general Nosey Pieterse said there was no reason to call off the strike as the workers objectives had not yet been met.
Mr Pieterse said the strike organisers would manage the situation to ensure that criminal elements did not take over.
Fawu deputy secretary general Moleko Phakedi accused the police and private security companies of fermenting the violence.
"The police and the security companies work hand in hand to intimidate and cause violence against the workers," he said.
Many farmers have prepared for the strike by hiring private security personnel from outside the area.
On Thursday ANC Boland leader Pat Marran was shot in the face by a private security guard.
Two people were killed during the previous rounds of strike action and some vineyards were set alight.
Me Ehrenreich said an agreement had been reached on Friday with at least one farmer in the Glen William area.
He said that farmer organisations such as Agri SA and the Hex River Table Grape Growers Association (HTA) had sabotaged the recent talks as they insisted that their members do not engage in sector or regional negotiations.
Mr Pieterse specifically mentioned HTA chairman Michael Laubscher by name saying Mr Laubscher was one of the farmers who was refusing to negotiate.
"We want to know why Mr Laubscher thinks he can absorb the pressure of this strike and hold out," he said.
Contacted later, Mr Laubscher said he and all the farmers in the region and their workers were under pressure.
He said that he had a scheduled meeting with HTA members on Friday morning to discuss the current situation and the lawlessness.
"We are under pressure. Just two kilometres from me the police are shooting rubber bullets at people. This is very upsetting for all of us, especially the workers. The N1 is closed and we have to transport food for our workers and this is not an easy task under the circumstances," he said.
De Doorns and other areas were quiet on Friday, with many people saying they expected to remain so for the weekend. However, many people, including workers and farmers expect the situation to flare up again on Monday.
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