Wiseman Khuzwayo

The Department of Labour planned to kick off its public hearings in the Western Cape in the next two days to determine the minimum wage in the farming sector, it said yesterday.

The sectoral determination prescribes minimum wages and conditions of employment for workers in vulnerable sectors like farming and domestic work.

Currently, the minimum wage for farmworkers is R70 a day until March 2013.

The public hearings were organised after violent strikes by farmworkers in the Western Cape, who were demanding R150 a day as the minimum wage in the sector.

The strikes were suspended last week until December 4 to allow the government to implement the workers’ demands.

The public hearings come in the wake of a notice published on Friday by acting Labour Minister Angie Motshekga.

Titus Mtsweni, the acting director of labour standards, said the taxing and hectic schedule would see departmental officials proceeding to KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend, with other provinces to host similar public hearings soon.

Motshekga has invited interested persons to make written representations within 15 days.

She has also published her intention to cancel the current sectoral determination, which sets monthly wages in the farming sector at R1 503.90.

Mtsweni said once the hearings had been concluded, the Employment Conditions Commission, which advises the minister on wage and other conditions of employment, would compile a document and make a recommendation.

The commission, which is set up under the auspices of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, is expected to meet today.

The commission is made up of representatives from business, labour and experts appointed by the minister.

Anton Rabe, the chairman of AgriSA’s labour committee, said as far as he was informed worker attendance on the farms in the Western Cape was almost 100 percent and activities were normal.