De Doorns strikers ‘can claim victory’

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By Daneel Knoetze And Murray Williams

Cape Town - Minister of Agriculture Tina Joemat-Pettersson, with the support of Cosatu in the Western Cape, will ask President Jacob Zuma to legislate a “living wage” for farmworkers nationally.

If Zuma and Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant agree, workers would be asked to return to work for an interim wage of R80 a day. They have been protesting for an increase of R150.

Joemat-Pettersson was addressing the largest group of strikers yet to gather at Stofland Stadium in De Doorns since the strike started nearly two weeks ago.

She said the strikers could now claim victory.

 

Joemat-Pettersson added that all jailed strikers needed to be freed and have the charges against them withdrawn.

On Tuesday, the strikes spread to at least 12 farming towns in the province’s south-western corner, with police firing rubber bullets and stun grenades at protesters in De Doorns.

Agri SA and the DA have slammed “outside influences” for fuelling the protest.

“Outside influences with little interest in the welfare of agriculture and workers are abusing the minimum wage issue to promote labour unrest, which… will have dire consequences for those who have a direct interest in agriculture,” Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA, said yesterday.

Agri SA had encouraged farmers, where possible, to pay more than the minimum wage, said Möller.

Agri SA and Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson had agreed that:

* The government’s co-operation is sought to reject inflammatory and inciting utterances by politicians;

* Police must assist to prevent intimidation and incitement to violence, including the bussing in of persons not directly involved in the sector’s wage dispute;

* Farmers and their workers should be given the opportunity to negotiate minimum wages without external interference;

* Other ministers are requested urgently to give attention to issues not related to minimum wages; and

* The Western Cape government is requested urgently to address specific service delivery problems at local government level.

Agri SA had learned that the wage grievances are largely raised by seasonal workers and their sympathisers, who were applying pressure on permanent farm workers.

The DA was “shocked to witness a full-blown intimidation campaign being waged by Cosatu against farm workers who are reluctant to strike”, said shadow deputy agriculture minister Pieter van Dalen. “So-called organisers were… telling workers that their houses would be burnt or their wives would be raped if they go to work. This threat was carried out on Tuesday night when a farm worker’s house was burnt.”

Cape Argus

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