Cape Town - Several farmworkers claim they are being punished for taking part in the recent protest action for higher wages by being sent home without pay on their last day of work for the year.
An independent union operating in the greater Robertson area said many workers were also being denied Christmas bonuses.
Karel Swartz, assistant general secretary for the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union, says this is the culmination of a month of intimidation, suspensions, dismissals and disciplinary action to which workers have been subjected by their employers after unprotected strikes in the region in November and early December.
“We have received calls every day, and have logged over 100 complaints since 4 December.
“The farmers are systematically trying to reverse the situation through intimidation and dismissals.
“What is clear is that workers who supported the strike and unionised in recent weeks are being targeted,” said Swartz.
Ryno Filander, a worker on Wonderfontein farm and the union’s shop steward, said he and 39 colleagues were informed that their bonuses had been cancelled. This was in contrast to 20 workers who received bonuses, apparently for not participating in the strike. Filander had also apparently been told his December wages would be paid to him only next month.
“Many of us now don’t have money to buy food for Christmas,” he said.
But his employer, farmer Paul Marais, said the strikes had brought his business to a standstill for more than a week. He admitted that the workers who participated in the strike were being disadvantaged.
“I lost a lot of money during that time, so why should (the strikers) not bear some of the responsibility and consequences?” he asked.
Swartz has called on churches, mosques and the public to help with Christmas donations and food parcels for the affected farmworkers. The union can be contacted at 072 991 3371.