A MARCH organised by the Bawsi Agricultural Workers’ Union of South Africa (Bawusa) to deliver memorandums to farms in the Paarl area was struggling to start on Friday afternoon as negotiations between the police and organisers delayed it.
It was the only incident reported on an otherwise calm day as the Western Cape farm workers’ strike completed its second week.
Bawusa secretary-general Nosey Pieterse said: "Negotiations with the police are tough because they say we want to go to farms that are outside the original area that we asked permission to march to."
He said about 400 people had gathered for the march, adding: "We are also waiting for the other bus."
Farm workers are demanding an increase in their daily minimum wage to R150 from R69. They also demand improved working and living conditions.
Farmers were on Friday also counting the cost after a farm in Wellington called Sandrivier suffered extensive damage earlier this week in an arson attack linked to the strike.
Agri West Cape spokesperson Porchia Adams said the damage to Sandrivier farm was estimated at R50m-R100m and that a final insurance assessment was still awaited.
Ms Adams said farmers had not reported any disruption to the grape and fruit harvest. "So far the farms have been working normally," she said.
Quiet in De Doorns
The town of De Doorns, which has been a flashpoint of strike action, was quiet on Friday, though the N1 roadway remained closed as it was still strewn with rubble following clashes between workers and police, said Peter Pullen, spokesman for the Western Cape Disaster Risk Management Centre.
The Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) was due to negotiate with a farm in De Doorns called Keurboskloof where it already had some members working.
Josiah Louw, Fawu organiser for the De Doorns, Worcester and Rawsonville areas, said the union hoped the negotiations would eventually result in an agreement.
"We probably wont have an agreement today, but the start of the talks is encouraging," he said.
Mr Louw said Fawu also planned a meeting for its members in De Doorn’s Stofland township on Sunday to consider its next step.
"We will have to figure out if it is worth continuing with the strike as there is still nothing really from the farmers on the table," he said.
Fawu general secretary Katisha Masemola was expected to address the meeting.
Fawu is affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, whose provincial secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, has been at the forefront of trying to negotiate a deal.
So far, an agreement has been reached with the Cape Orchards Company, which manages or owns about 12 table-grape farms in the region. The deal includes a commitment to increase the daily wage to R105.
Bawusa is not an affiliate of Cosatu.
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