Agri Unity Forum warns strikes could lead to job losses

On-going labour unrest in the Western Cape, as some workers continue to demand that the minimum wage be increased from R69 to R150/day, will have far-reaching consequences for the agriculture sector.

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This was according to the Agri-sector Unity Forum (ASUF), a representative of all major agricultural unions, which released a statement saying the strikes are likely to have a severe negative impact on “production, the ability to serve markets in South Africa and abroad and, eventually, the viability of these farms and enterprises.”

ASUF said the knock-on effects of higher food prices and retrenchment of workers could follow as enterprises are forced to either restructure (mechanise or switch to less labour intensive industries), or close down.

“ASUF has fully agreed to a revision of the sectoral determination, as indicated in Government Gazette Notice No. 943 of 15 November 2012, and will fully and constructively participate in the Department of Labour’s consultation process in this regard,” said the forum.

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“It is however clear that certain parties are endeavouring for the establishment of a bargaining council principle and structure for the agriculture sector as a whole, but due to the diverse nature of agriculture industries and diversity over regions/provinces, this is not possible.”

ASUF also said it’s important that the principle of negotiation between farmers and farmworkers on a farm-by-farm basis be maintained, and that farmers be encouraged to pay more than the minimum wage where possible, and where performance and productivity justify such higher wages.