South Africa: farm strike intensifies in Western Cape

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South Africa: farm strike intensifies in Western Cape

Farm workers in South Africa's Western Cape region continued to strike yesterday, as rhetoric circulated promising further labor action.plums_17198239

The Building and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa) vowed to intensify the work stoppage that struck four fruit-producing farms run by the Le Roux Group last week, Eye Witness News reported.

Bawusa has accused farm owners of manipulating the new minimum wage of ZAR105 (US$10.10) a day by implementing extra deductions for transport, rent and electricity.

"Management will now have to think seriously about whether they are prepared to sacrifice their opportunity to make money just for the sake of continuing this unjust conduct," Bawasu's general secretary, Nosey Pieterse, told Eye Witness News.

Although Pieterse said he hoped to keep the strikes peaceful, Agri Wes-Cape reported that a Bawasu-led group set a truck alight Monday and then burned a field in a farm neighboring Sandrivier Estates.

"Representatives of Bawusa entered the farm, after which a group of workers (estimated at around 150 individuals) engaged in strike action on the farm," Agri Wes-Cape said.

"The Police arrested some of the workers and the remaining ones opted to go home.

"Things returned to normal after this and workers carried on with their repective jobs on the farm."

Pieterse published on his Facebook profile Monday evening that 20 people had been arrested and three were in the hospital in relation to the strikes.

"My dream of a peaceful strike ha [sic] been shattered," he posted Monday.

"20 arrested 3 in hospital and I have been interdicted in my personal capacity as well as GS. Bawusa has also been interdicted."

He said nine farm entities were involved in the strikes, including Sandrivier, Fruit2u Packers, Joubertsdal, Mooikelder and Broodkraal.

Other reports indicated participation by just four farms, Broodkraal (Piketberg), Sandrivier (Wellington), Joubertsdal and Mooikelder (Paarl).

Estimates on the number of participating workers varied widely. As of Monday, Bawusa reported that 3,000 workers had joined the strike. Agri Wes-Cape indicated much lower participation, reporting 250 strikers on Friday and just 150 on Monday.

Agri Wes-Cape said a number of workers had spoken with management Monday and returned to work after their questions had been answered.

In May 2013, the Le Roux Group did its annual consultation with workers to establish the year's current service contracts.

"Some of the changes to service contracts were the benefits (eg housing and  transport) that were not previously included in their salary packages, but was now added to the contracts and indicated on the payslips," Agri Wes-Cape said.

"In the case of the Le Roux Group, the cost of these benefits, as mutually agreed to by management, workers and worker representatives, were added to the salary packages over and above the wage increases.

"This means where the applicable benefit costs were added to the gross income on the workers’ payslips, it was at the same time deducted as expenditure, with no financial loss to the worker."

In the case of unfair labor practices, Agri Wes-Cape said unions can advise employers through a written notice stating the offenses and then work through the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CMMA) to resolve the issue. Agri Wes-Cape said Friday that CCMA had not been properly consulted to establish the strike.

Pieterse, however, alleged that the union had been blocked out of discussions.

"Even when people were talking about the R105, some of the companies were introducing unilateral changes to the working conditions of their employees," he told

Related story: South Africa: renewed action marks one-year anniversary of farm strikes



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