Fair labour practice bears fruit

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By Xolani Koyana

Cape Town - Adriaan Wolfaard not only pays his employees above the minimum wage, he encourages worker representation and abides by labour practices.

Despite this he became a victim of the farmworker strike after he lost 1 000 bins when his packing house was fire-bombed in November.

Wolfaard runs the Verdun Farm in Prince Alfred Hamlet which grows and exports stoned fruit to the UK and Canada.

Although some workers have threatened strike action recently, after thousands of others went on strike in the Boland over low pay, they believe their farm is among the best paying in the area.

Workers have told Wolfaard they will wait for the Department of Labour’s Sectoral Determination before taking any action.

Women on the farm earn R83 a day and men, who work an extra hour, R93 a day. The women work nine hours during peak season. Permanent and seasonal workers have the same rates. Wolfaard said he preferred this to avoid dissension. Increases were negotiated by a farmworker committee elected by workers.

“Workers feel that they should be earning more and I agree with them. I feel that it need not be R150,” he said.

He has kept in contact with the committee to ensure that he knows what’s going on.

“We are coping. We are managing the situation as best we can. It (the strike) came at a time when we are vulnerable.”

The company also provides housing for four families and the land has since been transferred to them.

Yesterday the farm was short-staffed after many workers who do the picking had left, apparently because of intimidation. There are normally seven teams of about 15 people each.

Wolfaard’s son, Peter, who helps with the running of the farm, said workers had left early yesterday after threats were made against their lives.

But for others work did not stop. Randall Maart, 22, has been employed at the farm for four years but has been working on farms since he was eight years old. He worked his way up from pelleting to head of administration.

He earns R180 a day and helps his grandmother with household expenses. Maart plans to do a course in management to help realise his ambition of managing the packing house.

“Working here is great. The people here (owners) encourage you to follow your dreams. You have to work hard because there are opportunities for you to move up,” Maart said.

Before going to the Verdun Farm, Karel Titus was a driver in Endevue near Ceres. He has been employed at the farm for about five years. At his previous job he earned about R60 a day but now earns R103 a day.

“Things are much better now,” he said.

Cape Times

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