South Africa: Farms – Cosatu and union clash
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Building and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa) on Wednesday seemed to disagree on whether the farm strikes that have rocked the Western Cape in recent days should be called off.
Cosatu announced on Wednesday at a press briefing that the farm workers’ strike would be suspended in most towns in the province for a week to “give negotiations a chance”.
However, the union said the strike action would continue in De Doorns as workers there were “still standing by” their daily wage demands of R150.
Less than 10 percent of farm workers in the province belong to unions, and Bawusa claims to represent nearly 10,000 farm workers.
Cosatu claimed on Wednesday that some farm workers in areas such as Clanwilliam had agreed to R105 daily wages. Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said that the conditions for the suspension of the strike were that farmers should acknowledge the “Clanwilliam agreement as the model for other towns”. He said this would lead to unions and workers pursuing agreements on a town-by-town basis.
However, Bawusa’s Nosey Pieterse said on Wednesday the agreement with a single farmer in Clanwilliam applied to that area only and the strike had not been called off in the rest of the province.
Cosatu had not informed Bawusa about its decision to call off the strike in the whole province, Mr Pieterse said.
A Western Cape grape farmer who had made a commitment to pay a minimum wage of R105 a day to workers, accused Cosatu of not “playing ball”.
Cape Orchids Company director and farmer Gerhard de Kock said he had not signed an agreement, but had made a commitment to implement the new wage from the first quarter.
Agri SA president Johannes Moller said on Wednesday no wage deal had yet been made.
About 1,000 workers attended a public hearing by the Department of Labour in De Doorns on Wednesday. They stuck to the demand of R150 a day and those interviewed by Business Day said they had not heard about Cosatu’s call to suspend the strike.