Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich on Tuesday successfully brokered a further suspension of the farm workers’ strike in the Western Cape, telling striking workers at De Doorns that talks would now move to farm level with a new deadline.
Mr Ehrenreich confirmed in a statement early on Wednesday that a proposal put forward by Agri SA, the largest employers’ organisation, had been accepted by workers. According to the agreement, wage negotiations will be held by unions farm by farm to deal.
If these talks fail, the strike would resume on January 9, at the height of the harvest period, when workers “would be strongest” and farmers hurt most.
The demands to be negotiated included a basic wage of R150 (a day) and a share of the season’s profits for workers. “If we don’t get it, then we go back on strike and the fruits on the trees will rot,” Mr Ehrenreich told workers on Tuesday.
He also said unions, together with the Department of Social Welfare, would distribute food parcels to the value of R500 to all families that had been on strike. If the strike resumed next year, workers would be able to use their food parcels to sustain themselves. The food parcels were a “public-private partnership”.
On Wednesday, Mr Ehrenreich said: “This agreement represents a huge victory for farm workers as it sets the basis for new relations between farm workers and farmers to build a more fair and just agricultural environment.”
Agri SA said on Tuesday it was strongly in favour of negotiating at farm level. Anton Rabe, chairman of the labour and social policy committee, said: “That has been our position right from the start. It is the only level where binding agreements can be made in the short term while the review (of the minimum wage) is under way.”
Workers in De Doorns also responded positively to the plan. “It is a good idea, I think it can work, because January is when farmers are packing for export,” said striker Ningo Mtya.
Unions and nongovernmental organisations will now have to communicate the message to other areas. However, the use of SMS has so far provided an effective way of spreading information about the strike.
Article continues on page two: Mr Ehrenreich said negotiations at farm level required financial disclosure by farmers...