De Doorns strikers welcome talks

De Doorns, Western Cape - Some striking farmworkers welcomed talks between unions and farm bosses on Friday, following two days of violent protest action.

The individual farmers agreed to a meeting organised by Cape Orchards Company (COC) chairman Gerhard de Kock.

File image - Reports that ANC MPs will oppose parts of the Labour Relations Amendment Bill dealing with labour brokers are distorted, the party said. Photo: Henk Kruger. Credit: CAPE ARGUS

The COC represents 12 farms in the De Doorns Hex River Valley, which together produce approximately three million boxes of table grapes a year.

“We are glad they (farmers) are willing to negotiate,” 29-year old farmworker Johannes Links told Sapa as he stood on the side of the N1 highway in De Doorns on Friday.

The area had been the epicentre of violent clashes between protesters and police on Thursday.

It was quiet on Friday with police patrolling the highway, which remained closed to traffic.

Links said he had worked on farms in the area for the past 16 years.

He rubbished claims by farmers who said they could not afford to meet wage demands of R150 a day.

“They make more and more profit from our work every year... they are not the losers, we lose out,” Links said.

Workers are earning a minimum wage of R69 a day.

“Our parents struggled to make ends meet, we are struggling... now we are trying to make things right to secure our children's future,” said Links.

He said if farmers were not willing to budge, workers would continue the strike until “the grapes rotted”.

It was harvesting season at the vineyards, but very few workers had arrived to pack the grapes.

The faster the farmers gave them a good answer, the faster they would stop rioting, he said.

Police were monitoring the situation in various areas in the Western Cape.

Police spokesman Andre Traut said at least 118 people had been arrested on public violence related charges since Wednesday. - Sapa