Agriculture in 2013: The threat of strikes ever present

After the violent strikes in the Western Cape late last year, it was reported on 18 January that most permanent farm workers in that province had returned to work on 9 January, the day on which strikes had been expected to resume.

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Nosey Pieterse, general secretary of the Agricultural Workers’ Union of South Africa (Bawusa) and president of the Black Association of the Wine and Spirits Industry (Bawsi), who claimed to be acting on behalf of the farm workers, told Farmer’s Weekly that the new round of strikes would most likely spread to parts of the province as yet unaffected by the labour action.

On 25 January, we reported that the deputy minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Dr Pieter Mulder, said: “Farm workers stand to lose the most. The motivation for the strike is 80% political and 20% agricultural.” It was reported on 1 February that Western Cape farm workers opposed to the violence that characterised the strikes formed the Farm Worker
Forum (FWF).

A forum convener, Rita Andreas, said the FWF already enjoyed the support of most farms in the Berg River municipal area, while support in other regions was growing fast. “We all agree R70/ day isn’t enough, but to burn property and plunder and loot is not the solution,” said FWF spokesperson Magrieta Futhwa.

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In October, Agri SA officials said they expected a second round of strikes to occur towards the end of the year.
On 22 November, Farmer’s Weekly reported that permanent workers on Sandrivier Estate near Wellington had
been intimidated by Bawusa-aligned seasonal workers, who took part in an illegal strike.

Cosatu had also brought a Section 77 application against the agricultural value chain, because of the industry’s lack of transformation. This could lead to industry-wide strikes by March 2014, according to Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu secretary in the Western Cape.