Agri SA said it remained each farmer’s right to negotiate with his workers regarding any remuneration in excess of the minimum wage. Further the agricultural union said it was never agreed that trade unions could act as intermediaries in respect of wage negotiations at farm level; neither that farmers should ‘open’ their financial books for workers and trade union representatives; it was not agreed that the CCMA could fulfill a new function in this regard at farm level, except what was already covered by its mandate and that Agri SA was never consulted on the date of 9 January 2013 by which wage negotiations at farm level should be completed.
Agri SA said in a statement it conveyed this view unambiguously to the minister of agriculture, Tina Joemat-Pettersson before her media conference on 5 December and requested her not to quote Agri SA incorrectly, creating expectations that were not viable.
Joemat-Pettersson nonetheless on Wednesday appealed to farmers and workers to negotiate in good faith. "Sectoral negotiations are the overall, comprehensive solution to this problem… [but for now] we are left with no other option but to do farm-to-farm negotiations," she said.
Joemat-Pettersson urged farmers to allow union members onto their farms "so the workers have some form of support when these negotiations take place". Joemat-Pettersson claimed that it was agreed to at a meeting on Tuesday, involving unions, the departments of agriculture and labour and AgriSA – which has since denied agreeing to let trade unions act on behalf of non-unionised workers. "These are not comprehensive negotiations, but a stop-gap measure to assist us in managing the period from now until the end of the sectoral negotiations."
She warned this stop-gap measure was not about establishing a minimum wage now. "We are not creating expectations that by January 9, there will be a new minimum wage. This will be determined by the sectoral negotiations… which remain the fundamental responsibility of the minister of labour." Joemat-Pettersson said she was in "regular contact" with Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on the matter.