De Doorns wage talks continue

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de doorns nov 9 CAPE ARGUS Protesters on the march in De Doorns. Photo: Tracey Adams

Johannesburg - Talks aimed at resolving a farm labour dispute continued on Friday, employer body Agri-Wes Cape said.

Workers had been gathering on the N1 since Monday, but Lt-Col Andre Traut described the situation as “very quiet” on Friday morning.

Spokeswoman Porchia Adams said it was hoped that the negotiations would yield “some sort of agreement” that would restore peace in the Hex River Valley.

The talks, which started on Tuesday, are being chaired by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration at the Worcester civic centre.

Farmers' representatives, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), the Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry (Bawsi), and the Hex Rivier Plaaswerkers Belange Groep (Hex River Farmworkers' Interest Group) were party to the talks.

According to Agri-Wes Cape, workers were demanding R150 a day in pay, improved living conditions, electricity, and an end to illegal evictions, illegal immigrant workers, and labour brokers.

According to Adams, however, the issues of illegal evictions and immigrants were not applicable to that area.

Wouter Kriel, spokesman for agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg, said many of the workers wanted to return to their jobs, but were afraid for their safety and that of their families. “Police are doing a very good job under difficult conditions.”

Earlier in the week, protests resulted in vineyards being burnt, a number of arrests, and the closure of the N1 between Touws River and De Doorns.

Farmers had also been worried about possible violence and damage to their farms.

“We are very happy that they are talking and hope they will continue engaging to find solutions,” Kriel said.

Cosatu, Bawsi, and the Building, Wood, and Allied Workers Union of SA could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

On Thursday, after Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille was heckled by supporters of former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema while visiting the area, Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said she had been warned to stay away.

Ehrenreich said Agri SA had taken a stand against the need for collective bargaining and this had incensed workers.

“Cosatu continues to support the workers' demand of R150 per day and rejects the R80 offered by the farmers as an insult and return to slave wages.”

Sapa



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