Farm strikes in the Western Cape are losing momentum probably because of the mixed messages workers have been receiving, says Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) general secretary Katishi Masemola.
Cosatu-affiliated Fawu and Bawsi Agricultural Workers Union of SA (Bawusa) have been co-operating on the strikes and negotiations with the various farming organisations and individual farms.
Mr Masemola, who was due to meet with members of his union on Sunday night, said he would be seeking a mandate to suspend or even lift the strike completely in some areas. But Bawusa secretary-general Nosey Pieterse said workers wanted to continue with the strike until they had a definite answer from farmers on the new minimum daily wage.
The strike has been continuing for two weeks with workers demanding an increase in their minimum daily wage from R69 to R150.
Mr Masemola said the strikers had three options. "The first is to lift the strike in areas where farmers have showed signs of willingness to raise the minimum wage.
"The second is to suspend it this week in areas where farmers are willing to negotiate and the third is to continue where we have not had a response from farmers."
Last week, Cosatu said the strike should be suspended for at least a week to give negotiations a chance.
Mr Mase mela agreed with this, saying there was confusion among workers just how to proceed.
On the other hand, Mr Pieterse said a march he led in De Doorns last week indicated that farm workers were determined to continue with the strike. "We are now seeing more permanent farm workers, meaning those who stay on the farms, coming to join us."
Mr Pieterse said Bawusa would be holding discussions with a number of farmers and organisations today and tomorrow. It would then report back to workers in De Doorns.
The workers would decide if they wanted to continue with the strike.
Cosatu Western Cape general secretary Tony Ehrenreich has secured a deal with one farming company Cape Orchards Company. The company had agreed to raise the daily minimum wage to R105.
Cape Orchards Company manages or owns about 12 farms.
Mr Ehrenreich said the strike should be suspended to allow farmers and workers a chance to find the middle ground. "If production (at the farms) has not been halted completely, then the strike is not having the full effect it should."
Farmers have said their harvesting has been little affected so far, but they are worried what would happen if the strike continued much longer.
Wolseley fruit farmer Ismail Motala said the local packing house was running a day and a half behind schedule. "The big problem is that our international markets are beginning to see us as being unreliable suppliers ."
Meanwhile, Fawu ’s North West chapter yesterday met farm workers to discuss their working conditions, said the union’s provincial secretary Tseleng Tau. Workers fully supported their strike counterparts in the Western Cape, but agreed that they would " reserve" solidarity action for now.
Additional reporting by Natasha Marrian
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