File image: IOL.

CAPE TOWN - South African agricultural industry association, Agri SA on Wednesday said that they cannot say whether the recent increase in minimum wages for farm and forestry workers is fair or not. 

This comes after the South African Labour Department on Tuesday released the minimum wage for the farm and forestry sector for the 2018/2019 year. The new minimum wages which will come into effect on March 1, 2018 will see a significant increase. 

Employees in the farm and forestry sectors are set to benefit from a 5.6% increase. The minimum wage for farm and forest workers is calculated based on a 9 hour shift.

READ ALSO: Minimum wage for Farm workers increased to R3 169 per month

According to the Department of Labour, the 2018 to 2019 minimum wages are as follows:

Monthly: R3 169,19

Weekly: R731,41

Daily: R146,28

Hourly: R16, 25

When asked whether the new hourly rate for farm and forestry workers of R16.25 is enough for a worker to sustain himself and his family, Agri SA said that because they do not represent workers, but organised agriculture and it would be unfair to fell an opinion. 

"As Agri SA does not represent workers, but organised agriculture, it would be unfair for us to fell an opinion as requested.  We believe in the balance between commercial sustainability of a farming venture and the interests of workers".  

Agri SA said that the farming and forestry sector, comprising of hard labour, is vulnerable.  The association also acknowledged the recent minimum wage for nannies and domestics, effective this month, which is significantly low at R13.05 per hour in metropolitan areas. 

This sector, too, is vulnerable, said Agri SA. However, Agri SA said that the difference in wages between the two sectors are governed by their own, separate sectoral determinations. 

Agri SA said that they believe the department strives to fulfill their mandate “to ensure equal access to opportunities” as part of the Constitution: Bill of Rights: Section 9, Section 10, “promotion of labour standards. 

“Farming is hard, intensive work, and we are truly thankful to each farmer and worker who ensure that we have food to eat.  The agriculture industry is and has been experiencing intense pressure due to a number of factors, of which the changing weather patterns is one.  We believe that wages need to remain affordable as well as a living wage (the balance needs to be maintained), otherwise farming becomes unsustainable”,said Agri SA.    

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- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE