Grain SA advises members to avoid retrenchment of farm workers

Grain SA (GSA) called on grain producers to avoid large scale retrenchments of workers after the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, announced the increased minimum wages for farm workers of R105 per day effective from 1 March 2013.

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The organisation said in a statement grain producers should rather focus on workers’ training and increase productivity. GSA claimed that the grain industry would not be affected as severely as the more labour intensive industries such as fruit and vegetable producers. Grain producer Chris Schoonwinkel from Wesselsbron said he hoped that the minimum wage announcement was not cast in stone and that it would be followed up by further negotiations.

“If not, it could very well lead to the retrenchment of non-essential workers in particular. We must however keep in mind that mechanisation in agriculture is a world wide phenomenon. The increased minimum wage could to some extent accelerate the process of mechanisation in South Africa, but did not cause it.”

Hannes Haasbroek, who produces maize in Bothaville, said he would not embark on a large scale retrenchment process either, but won’t fill any vacancies for non-essential workers such as gardeners. “I must keep my workforce as compact and focussed as possible to remain in the business.”

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The National Planning Commission (NPC) focused strongly on job creation within agriculture. Grain SA supported the principle of job creation and called on government to create a policy framework where job creation was stimulated. The organisation said in the statement although it had empathy for the unemployed in South Africa, the social responsibility of job creation was not solely that of agriculture, but also the responsibility of government and the private sector.