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Sona: Farm worker exploitation and safety needs to be high on the agenda

Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation says the overloading of farmer workers on open trucks, child labour and evictions must be top priorities at Sona. Picture: Bosbeer.com/ Twitter

Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation says the overloading of farmer workers on open trucks, child labour and evictions must be top priorities at Sona. Picture: Bosbeer.com/ Twitter

Published Feb 8, 2023

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Cape Town - The Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation is urging President Cyril Ramaphosa to place farmworker-related issues high on his agenda during the State of the Nation Address (Sona).

This includes atrocious living and working conditions where farm workers were being overloaded on open trucks and farmers allegedly separating children from their parents.

The organisation also expressed concern about cases of injuries, sometimes fatalities on duty, as well as the issue of child labour.

“The unnecessary death of eight farmworkers in the Northern Cape's extreme heat in January 2023, is still fresh in our minds. Farmworkers being fired and facing evictions is a daily issue we as labour unions and civil society (deal with). We demand that the issue of access to land for farm workers be put on the agenda.

“It is shameless for farm workers to work their entire life on the farm and only end up with UIF to claim and then go straight to a Sassa Old Age Pension grant,” the organisation’s executive director Billy Claasen said.

Classen further called on the president to look at ways to put in place a uniform provident fund for farm workers.

“We recommend that the government needs to contribute to this fund, together with the employer as well as the workers,” he said.

He urged that Covid-19 TERS funds to farmers be probed, claiming there were cases where farmworkers were never paid.

Claasen said that in 2019 Ramaphosa made a commitment that he would address the issues of exploitation, abuse and eviction of farm workers, but it never happened.

“He promised meetings with labour unions and NGOs representing farm workers. It is four years later and we are still waiting. We call on the president to call Presidential farmworker Imbizos in all nine provinces,” he said.

Cape Times