Farmworkers stuck in limbo

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IOL news nov 16  Wolseley Protest DONE

INLSA

Farmworkers protest in Wolseley. Photo: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - Cosatu’s message that farmworkers should return to work has become a bloody fault line between strikers.

Cosatu issued a statement on Wednesday that the strike would temporarily be suspended for two weeks - the time deemed necessary for Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant to review the minimum wage for farmworkers.

“The farmers will laugh at us if we return to work, they’ll throw it back in our faces. People have gone hungry for two weeks, they will go hungry for another two,” said Rosemarie Filander, a farmworker and member of the Hex Valley Community Interest Group.

Hunger has become a serious concern for many strikers, who also have not been paid for two weeks.

Many workers who have heeded Cosatu’s call to return to work have been severely assaulted with machetes by diehard strikers.

Criminal and violent elements - looting, vandalism and arson - still accompany the strike.

“What we need now is communication, unity and consensus among the people. It would be a tragedy if the strike rips into two,” said Jesaja Louw, leader of the Food Allied and Workers Union in the region.

Louw admitted that the various unions’ communication to strikers about the two-week interim agreement had been inadequate.

“There is a lot of confusion right now. Many opinions and versions of what should happen next are flying about,” said Louw.

Adding to the woes of De Doorns residents is that the local clinic has been closed for the last two weeks because of the strike. Chronically ill patients were prevented from accessing life-saving medications, said Joanne Otto, Cape Winelands Health spokeswoman.

Cape Argus


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