Thursday, December 6, 2012

South African farmworkers resume strikes

Below is a report on the farmworkers strikes in South Africa from Lauren Paremoer of the "New Women's Movement Branch" As she explains, the strike which was put on hold pending a government investigation has continued.  Readers can contact them at

In August this year farm workers rose up in Cape Town, South Africa. Their call: R150 per day. Currently farm workers are earning between R60-R70 per day. However, there have been reports of workers, especially women, who earn less than this. Farm workers are the most marginalised workers in our economy, with very little unionisation.

Wine is one of South Africa’s biggest exports. According to the statistics released by the South African Wine Industry, wine producers earned a total income of over R3 619 million in 2011.[1]
The strike initially started in Du Doorns in the Hex River Valley in November and spread to at the very least 15 farming districts. Organisations working on farms have united under the banner the Coalition for Farm Workers Living Wage and Decent Living Conditions.
In late November, the strike was suspended to give government time to properly address the issue of decent living wages. In this case it is the South African government that sets the minimum wage and not farmers.
After being assured by the Minister of Agriculture – Tina Joemat Petterson that government would increase wages by 4 December, labour minister Mildred Olifant reneged, stating that wages can only be adjusted only in March 2013.
Strike action resumed on 4 December with mass action in every affected town. It was here that two prominent activists – Mercia Andrews and Denia Jansen – were arrested and held overnight in jail with two more people. 18 others in the Citrusdal area were also arrested and later released.
During this time the Western Cape general secretary of Cosatu, Tony Ehrenreich declared an end to the strike, saying that negotiations would be done on a farm to farm basis in an agreement with Agri-SA. Cosatu’s position is that the strike will resume on 9 Januay 2012, if negotiations failto deliver on a satisfactory solution. Despite the union’s statement and continued intimidation at the hands of the SAPS and private security companies hired by farmers, the Coalition for Farm Workers insist that the strike will continue until the workers themselves decide to call it off.

Lauren Paremoer 
Rita Edwards Branch - New Women's Movement

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