Oliphant wants talks ‘in good faith’

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IOL pic jan14 labour mildred oliphant Independent Newspapers Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant File image: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - The Labour Department is ready to mediate in the farmworkers' strike if all parties return to the negotiating table, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Sunday.

“I have been making an appeal to all the involved parties to engage in negotiations in good faith.

“As early as the beginning of the year, I dispatched a team led by the director general to try and bring the parties to a negotiating table. For a while it seemed that there was progress, but the talks broke down,” she said.

Oliphant's statement came after the Congress of South African Trade Unions in the Western Cape announced that farmworkers would intensify their strike on Monday.

“Some farmers have indicated their willingness to increase above R100, but a number of bad farmers are opposing this,” said Cosatu’s Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich.

The farmworkers were also rejecting a call by the African National Congress for the suspension of the strike.

Ehrenreich said negotiations with some farmers had shown progress, and that if agreements were reached with farmers in particular areas, the strike would end in those areas.

Farmworkers were calling on Oliphant, as well as Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and President Jacob Zuma, to intervene in the strike.

Farmworkers went on strike last year in demand of an increase in their daily wage from R69 to R150, and a coherent land-reform programme. The strike was suspended in December, but resumed on Wednesday.

During the often-violent strike, farmworkers barricaded roads, stoned motorists and burnt farm properties.

Ehrenreich said farmworkers were calling on retailers to boycott the “bad farmers” who did not want to heed their demands.

“Cosatu is calling on its members... not to handle the fruit and not to load any fruit onto the ships for export,” he said.

“There has also been a call from workers for the food- and fruit-processing plants to also come and join the protest action.”

Ehrenreich said workers were willing to suspend the strike “should government come to the party” on Monday.

Meanwhile, police said the situation was quiet on Sunday afternoon, with no violent protests reported.

A total of 125 people have been arrested since the beginning of the strike, mainly for public violence. - Sapa

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