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Police monitor farm protests

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By SAPA

Police would continue to monitor areas of the Western Cape which had been affected by the protests of striking farmworkers, provincial police said on Saturday.

“From the police's side, everything is quiet this morning,” Lt-Col Andrè Traut said.

On Friday, protesters looted shops and torched businesses in the Hex River Valley and roads in the province, including the N2, were blockaded with rocks and burning tyres.

The Mawubuye Land Rights Forum said in a statement on Saturday that it supported the striking farmworkers in their demands.

“These protests are spontaneous and organised by the workers themselves, and are an indicator of the abject poverty that farm workers and their communities experience.”

Protests over wages in the province spread across the Boland, with table grape harvesters demanding to be paid R150 a day. Most earned between R69 and R75 a day.

Even among workers at the same farm, there were often pay disparities, with women were paid less than their male counterparts, even though they do the same work, Mawubuye claimed.

“Living conditions on many farms are sub-human, and we need to dispel the myth that farmers provide free electricity and offer pay for transport themselves.”

The labour department met with various farmers' unions on Friday and negotiations are set to start next Thursday.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration would mediate the talks.

The department on Friday called for interested parties to comment on a possible review of the sectoral determination for farmworkers, which prescribes minimum wages and conditions of employment.

About 300 farmworkers who went on strike in Wolseley in the Western Cape returned to work on Friday, according to the SA National Civic Organisation.

Provincial general secretary Vusi Myeki said the workers agreed to suspend the strike for at least two weeks pending a decision on the farmworkers' minimum wage. - Sapa

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