Cape Town-151007-Joint workers unions marched to Ceres Municipality where workers from Ceres Fruit Growers demand wage increase-Picture by BHEKI RADEBE

Cape Town - It was a sea of red in Voortrekker Road in Ceres on Wednesday when about 500 members from the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) marched to the Witzenberg municipality to hand over two memorandums – to the Ceres Fruit Growers (CFG) and the Department of Labour.

Wearing their red T-shirts, they demanded that the department send inspectors to CFG to see the terrible working conditions in the factories.

CFG is one of the country’s largest apple and pear packing and storage facilities. On its website it states that they are a significant employer of choice in the valley.

Supported by the ANC, the United Front (UF) and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), they barricaded the entrance of the CFG premises with burning tyres before proceeding down the one-way Voortrekker Road, bringing traffic to a standstill.

The group sang “these dogs, Pieter Graaf and Du Toit, are taking us for a s*** as they don’t want to give us our monies”.

They reached their destination, the Witzenberg municipality offices, under the watchful eye of the police.

In their five-week strike, CFG workers have been protesting for a 12.5 percent wage increase or 10 percent plus profit share of R1 300 for each worker.

Pledging UF’s support, Abraham Aghulas urged CFG workers to intensify the strike. “Your bosses are still practising the apartheid wages policies. Your rights as farm workers are undermined.”

Aghulas said they were fighting a new liberal agenda. “This country’s capitalist economic policies are a problem. What is a 10 percent increase for a few workers from people who own more than 40 farms. This is a blatant exploitation.”

Fawu provincial head of operations Meshack Nteshane said they were disgusted by the manner in which CFG had handled the negotiations around the genuine and legitimate demands of workers.

“We are calling on CFG to return to the negotiating table. These demands are noble and reasonable in the face of hard work and toiling effort the workers make in getting this company to be profitable as it has been over the years.

“Both wage increments and a profit share are legitimate demands that should be considered instead of being labelled as unwarranted and irresponsible,” he said to cheers.

Numsa’s provincial secretary, Vuyo Lufele, said it was unfair for the “boers” who stole 87 percent of the land to not want to increase their salaries by just a fraction.

“These boers own all the rich land and as a result they drive luxury cars while you live in shacks. And yet they pay you peanuts.

“You can not even send your children to school. What is 12 percent to someone who has farms and exports your hard labour overseas and gets foreign currency in exchange.”

CFG did not respond by the time the Cape Times went to print.

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Cape Times