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South Africa farmers strike for higher wages

Western Cape farmers have downed tools again after negotiations to meet their demands for a pay increase failed.
Last modified: 9 Jan 2013 12:08
Even if striking farmers get the wage they demand, it is not enough to provide for a family [AFP]

The year 2013 has started much the same as 2012 ended in South Africa, with illegal labour strikes.

Farm workers, who were convinced to go back to work in December after striking since November, have decided to down tools again after negotiations to meet their demands (or a compromise) failed.

Currently the minimum daily wage for part time farm workers is about $8 - they want it increased to about $17.50. It's a huge pay increase, much like the big pay rise demands we saw in the miners' strikes last year.

It's important to note the farms in Western Cape haven't been brought to a standstill as it's predominantly the part-time workers (who get paid less) who are striking.

They are only employed in the busiest seasons, during the harvest. Full time workers, who are paid more, are still in the fields and orchards.

The various parties - the unions, AgriSA (the industry body involved) and the labour department - agreed to have an independent feasibility study done into what impact a pay rise would have on the industry. 

The Bureau of Food and Agriculture Policy reported back on Tuesday saying the pay hike would force some farms to close, reduce production and lead farmers to opt for more mechanisation.

The other side of that, the researchers found, was that even if  both parents in a family (with two children) earned the demanded $17.50 a day they would still not be able to provide adequately for the nutritional needs of the family.

Because last year's strikes turned violent - there was looting, farms were set alight and two people were killed - this year, the police are out in force - so far it is quiet and calm here but as we've seen before, that can change very quickly.