Posted on Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Strike of Farm Workers on 4th December 2012
The Agricultural Workers Empowerment Trade Union Council (AWETUC) was formed by farm workers unions to lead the fight for a living wage in the agricultural sector. This is the headline and first section on a pamphlet one of our farm workers was busy distributing yesterday. In this pamphlet farmers are being denounced as if they are slave keepers and wages more than double the minimum as set by the government are being demanded. Everyone only hears how bad the farmers treat their workers, so let me shed some light on how the workers are being treated on Kaapzicht and on many other farms: I did not know we had any other option but to obey the law and offer our employees permanent contracts. Our wages are staggered according to work performance, responsibilities and the length of time somebody has been in our employment. A CD containing the entire wage program has to be submitted to the Department of Labour in regular intervals, so it is no secret that we pay more than minimum wages. Our people enjoy all the benefits as stipulated by law: paid holidays, paid sick leave, compassionate leave, maternity leave, we jointly pay into the Pension and Unemployment Funds and we pay Skills Development levies, hand out new working overalls and boots every year and most of our workers are members of a labour union. Many of our employees live in a house on Kaapzicht Estate, which we offer them for free, no rent has ever been subtracted. Water is also for free, while their electricity is being subsidized by us. The houses were originally built for a family of 4-6 people and each one has space for a vegetable garden. Maintenance of houses has always been for our account, but the condition of the houses and gardens depends very much on the enthusiasm of its inhabitants: some like to look after their residence, others couldn't care less. Some families have only 1 or 2 children, others house the entire extended family plus some paying guests. Every day we send a truck to transport those of our employees who live in nearby townships back and forth to the farm for free and for the inconvenience of not living on Kaapzicht we pay them 1/3 higher wages. We open our small grocery shop on the farm so they can buy all the basic food items and medicines every day at lunch time and in the evenings after work and every Saturday morning our transport takes them free of charge to town for shopping (and back). Countless times we are giving our truck for visits to the doctor and hospital, for the choir or other sports groups to practice, for the handicapped child to be taken to her school hostel every week, - nobody has ever measured the amount of Diesel or Petrol that is being used for compassionate reasons. We pre-pay their doctor's fees and their school uniforms so they have time to pay these debts off at a slower rate; banking fees for their electronically paid wages are on us and we handle all their private problems (bailing out of prison for example, pension fund disputes) and other administrations for them with a smile. We have been running a creche since 1987, but since 2008 we have a partnership with the Pebbles Project who send social workers and trained teachers to help with the education of our farm children. Since 2002 we are paying every year all the Primary and High School fees for all the children of all our ~ 49 employees, plus now also the salaries of the 2 Kindergarden teachers and the 3 teachers who come every afternoon from Monday to Thursday to our After-School- Club (ASC). These teachers help our kids with school homework, teach them entrepreneurial and life skills, as well as sports and games. Parents of children who attend the creche from Mo to Fri contribute R 2.- per day, the 45 children who attend our ASC do so for free. When they leave our hall at 18h00, adults arrive who receive free literacy lessons or are being helped by volunteers to work towards a late matriculation certificate. There is a large soccer field on the farm which is being used almost every weekend by our male and female soccer teams and we recently hosted a wonderful and colourful day of general sports and games. On 6th Dec the Pebbles Project is organizing the much awaited Christmas party in Somerset West for all the farm children who regularly attended the Creche and the After-School-Club. Unfortunately this year Pebbles finances would not allow them to offer this party for free, so guess who is paying several thousand Rand for the party and the bus just so that our kids would not be disappointed ? Somebody told us that our people had a meeting on the farm to decide whether they would join the strikes against us.... .....today everything is quiet and calm, 10 people came to work and all the others filled in official forms requesting paid leave. None of our workers is striking. Just to complete the picture of the situation on wine farms, let me translate a text that was published y VinPro in Afrikaans in the Business Section of the Eikestad Nuus (30th Nov.2012): " At this stage the government receives R 5.00 from the sale of every bottle of wine (750 ml) by claiming excise tax and VAT. Payments of wages (farm labour) amounts to R 0.90 per bottle. After deducting all production costs the farmer receives an average of R 0.38 net for the same bottle. " I doubt that the term "production costs" includes all the social costs that farmers pay in order to fulfill their freely chosen ethical and christian obligations. I close my case.
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