Get talks back on track, Oliphant told

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By SAPA

Cosatu on Friday urged Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to get negotiations with Western Cape farmworkers back on track.

“The minister has made a regrettable statement... and if it was not her intention to derail the process, she should assist to get negotiations back on track,” Congress of SA Trade Unions provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said in a statement.

Farmers changed their attitude towards negotiations when Oliphant announced there would be no higher wages until next year.

A coalition of farmworkers and their unions announced on Thursday that they would continue to protest on December 4 over a wage demand of R150 per day and improved living conditions. Most earned between R69 and R75 a day.

Previous protests by farmworkers this month caused chaos and destruction in 16 towns, including De Doorns, Wolseley and Ceres. Two people were killed and many buildings and vineyards set alight.

There were indications the renewed strike could again see flare-ups of violence. Workers wanted the employment condition commission (ECC) to look at the sectoral determination for agriculture, which prescribed minimum wages and conditions of employment for farmworkers.

Oliphant said this week that sectoral determination was put in place in March this year and, by law, could only be reviewed again in 12 months.

“The sectoral determination process has no bearing on the issue at hand, as the parties 1/8farmers and workers 3/8 were negotiating to find an agreement that could have been announced before 4 December 2012, and could have averted the strike,” Ehrenreich said.

“These issues are not difficult to find solutions to, but what is difficult is to find the political will.” - Sapa

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