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Cape Town - Farmworkers in De Doorns are set to continue striking after wage talks deadlocked at the weekend.
Frustrated De Doorns grape farmworkers embarked on an indefinite strike last Monday and say they are not backing down.
The strike, which has resulted in millions of rand in damage to vineyards, has been marred by violence and major traffic disruptions. The N1 highway was closed to traffic several times last week.
The farmworkers have threatened to bring the farms in the area to a standstill should they not get the R150 a day they are demanding. The farmworkers, who currently earn R65 a day, rejected an offer of R80 a day made during the negotiations last week.
The strike has caused tremendous damage to farms, said De Doorns ward councillor Patrick Januarie.
“It is a bit quiet now, there is no striking, but… I don’t think the farms will be open today,” Januarie said.
He said negotiations would continue this week as farmworkers were persistent in their demands.
“All the farmworkers want R150 per day and government must improve SA farmworkers’ pay to R150 per day,” Januarie said.
Talks are set to resume on Monday with Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who is trying to find a solution to the problem.
Joemat-Pettersson’s spokeswoman, Palesa Mokomele, said a breakthrough was expected soon.
“The minister will meet with the national union and the Labour Department and we are hopeful there will be a solution,” Mokomele said.
She said that Joemat-Pettersson was positive about the talks as farmers and farmworker representatives were still willing to negotiate.
“This is a very slow process, but as long as we have those who are willing to talk we are hopeful,” Mokomele said.
She added that their biggest concern was the violence and the strike spread to other parts of the country.
Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said Cosatu would help the farmworkers in their bid to get a wage increase.
“A few of the farmworkers are members of Cosatu and they have called on us to come and assist them,” Ehrenreich said.
He said that no one could survive on the wages the farmworkers were receiving and that the farmers and the government should respond and review their wages.
“Agri SA is an apartheid organisation and they want to continue with those apartheid ways, this is just a major uprising by the workers towards the agriculture sector… Agri SA has to change with the times or this could get dangerous,” Ehrenreich said.