Many wine farmers were members of the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association (Wieta), and met its requirements for pay, living and working conditions for their staff, the association’s chief executive, Linda Lipparoni, said yesterday.
“We are in the process of getting more members and although there are still a fairly significant proportion who have not yet joined, many of these have expressed the intention of doing so.”
She said most of the complaints about low wages and poor living conditions came from seasonal workers brought in by labour brokers who deducted a large percentage of the money paid by the farmer.
Farmers who negotiated with such brokers often did not know how much of the money was received by the worker.
One of the requirements for membership of Wieta was that seasonal workers employed on the farm must have a written contract showing that they were receiving a reasonable wage, which must be enough to meet their household costs. Farmers employing workers without such a contract were denied membership.
In addition to this, Wieta encouraged farmers to employ the workers directly, negotiating payment with them and, in some cases, they regularly employed the same workers who came back every year.
But, Lipparoni said, it was “not enough to say that all farmers can afford to pay as much as R150 a day”.
Expenses varied from farm to farm and from area to area, and although R150 a day might be affordable for those producing a premium wine commanding a high price, that was not the case for many whose wines were being exported in bulk.
Added to that, retailers received a large percentage of the price paid by consumers. – Audrey D’Angelo