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Farmworkers heat up strike, CCMA offers intervention

Farmworkers have decided to intensify their strike from today to force “bad farmers”, who are unwilling to negotiate further, to agree to their demands.

While some farmers were willing to increase wage rates to R100 a day, others were still sticking to the minimum wage of R69 a day, Cosatu said in a statement yesterday.

Workers are demanding a minimum daily wage of R150.

The strike action has grabbed the attention of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), which has offered to intervene in the fruit farms dispute. “We have the authority to intervene, and the skills and experience to mediate a solution,” CCMA executive director Nerine Kahn said at the weekend.

The CCMA was in a position to mediate a binding short-term agreement while the various parties awaited the final review of the sectoral wage determination that was being overseen by the Department of Labour.

“If we can reach a collective agreement soon, it will not only begin to restore calm and ensure workers can go back to work, it could also form the basis for recommendation to the minister of labour and the Employment Conditions Commission,” she said.

Cosatu said progressive discussions were being made with some “good farmers” towards resolving the strike in certain areas. “If and when we reach an agreement with good farmers in an area and they represent a significant number of farmers, then the strike in those areas would be suspended, with an immediate return to work in those areas,” it said.

The union federation has also called for an economic boycott of “bad farmers” internationally and for their products to be identified through the Ethical Trade Initiative. “We further call on retailers to not sell any of the products from ‘bad farmers’ in their stores.”

It also called for a meeting with a number of cabinet ministers including Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. – Nompumelelo Magwaza

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