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Agri SA welcomes end to violence in Western Cape

"Agri SA welcomes the discussions and indications that illegal agricultural strikes and accompanying violence, arson and intimidation will come to an end. We are committed to constructive discussions that will ensure the profitability and sustainability of commercial agriculture in the long term," said Anton Rabe, chairman of Agri SA's Labour and Social Policy Committee.
"It is now important that all parties work together to restore business confidence and peace of mind so that South Africa's image as a reliable supplier of high-quality products to international markets can be restored."

Agri SA cannot negotiate wages

Rabe said although Agri SA had been consulted in the past regarding minimum wages and will provide input during new discussions relating to minimum wages - in line with the prescripts as contained in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act - the organisation cannot negotiate and set wages on behalf of agricultural employers. The perception that Agri SA had agreed to a new minimum wage of R80 per day is therefore incorrect as the organisation has no mandate in this regard.

"Agri SA is not an employer organisation in terms of the Labour Relations Act and therefore cannot negotiate wage agreements. We will, however, participate constructively in the review process and has already entered into discussion with the Department of Labour with a view to doing so within the framework of the Basic Conditions of Employment," said Rabe.

Culprits must be held accountable

"Agri SA has also not agreed that no disciplinary action should be taken against striking workers and agitators. Employers themselves should decide on appropriate action in this regard as the strike was illegal and workers did not enjoy the protection under the Labour Relations Act. Lawlessness and criminal activities cannot be tolerated and the culprits must be held accountable via normal prosecution processes," he said.

Agri SA this week attended to a series of instructions issued by its congress regarding the training and upliftment of farm worker communities. One of the instructions deals with an objective study under the auspices of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to look into the living and working conditions on farms.

"Since there are diverse perceptions around the circumstances of farm workers, it is difficult to find consensus regarding problems and solutions. This study is therefore of critical importance, as evidenced by the different factors that led to the labour unrest in the Western Cape," said Rabe.