Each and every producer-member was Wieta-accredited within the specific time frame, setting a prime example for the rest of the industry.
Johan Giliomee, manager of the VinPro BEE Advisory Service, he explains that
this specific project is the only one to date where producer-members have been accredited
across the board on such a large scale. This project precedes even the Wieta
“Fast Track” initiative*, having been completed at the beginning of this year.
cellar had already received accreditation a few years ago and, according to its
manager Bowen Botha, who was the driving force behind the project, it was an
all-or-nothing approach – “everyone needed to participate for it to be a
had to convince the cellar’s management, directors and the producer-members –
informing them and explaining the process. With the help of Wieta CEO, Linda
Lipparoni, this part of the process was completed by the middle of 2011.
partner of Bar Valley Personnel Services, was recruited to facilitate and drive
the programme, going from farm-to-farm and consulting one-on-one with the
farmers and labourers. Bowen explains that it wasn’t that the people really
needed convincing, or that they were negative about the project, it was just a
new, foreign concept to many and they needed to understand it first.
“All the different
accreditations and audits can sometimes become overwhelming and more often than
not, there is some duplication. Once the farmers understood what Wieta was
about, everyone pulled together towards the finish line,” Bowen says.
Magda and her team
visited the farms, consulting and evaluating one-on-one, giving feedback to the
cellar throughout this process. Johan Giliomee explains that she worked very
hands-on, setting up workers’ committees where needed, adjusting and drawing up
labour contracts, even putting up the required signs – not wasting time on just
talking and planning, but rather jumping right into action.
that they did not encounter major problems at any of the farms, which helped to
shorten the process. According to Johan, only safety and health issues need to
be addressed immediately – any other non-conformance issues,
such as administration or
record keeping can be addressed through a three-year plan.
that about 90% of a Wieta audit concerns standard labour law, which farmers
have to legally adhere to anyway. The extra 10% is what makes the difference,
helping to really improve the working and living conditions of labourers
above that which is
required by law.
farmers realised what it was really about, their attitudes changed. It also
helps to protect those farmers who have sound labour practices, against unfair
pressure by labour unions and overseas commentators, such as last year’s Human
Right’s Watch report,” says Johan. It is also invaluable to the labourers themselves
and, according to Magda, they appreciate the new-found structure, knowing how
things are supposed to work and knowing their rights.
The main obstacle,
however, remains the costs. And, although it is not too expensive as such,
having to only be audited once every three years, it all adds to the already
tight budgets of South African wine farmers. One way of dealing with this, is
for Wieta to acknowledge certain other audits, trying to prevent duplication
and extra costs as far as possible – and this is in the process of being
The Wieta initiative
is slowly but surely gaining momentum and Bowen believes that the proposed
seal, to be issued by the Wine and Spirit Board – to incorporate the Wine of
Origin Scheme, IPW and Wieta – will motivate people even more. IPW has made its
mark and is here to stay, but it took time to get to this point – education and
the distribution of information remain key factors for success.
Although Wieta only
has about 90 active accredited members, Johan explains that many producers are
lined up to become accredited by the end of this year – with big-guns like
Distell, DGB and the company of wine people intending to take their suppliers
through this process.
Besides the fact that
Wieta promotes basic labour law and the improvement of labourers’ working and
living conditions, accreditation should also have positive outcomes for the producers
and cellars, especially when exporting wine to Scandinavian countries. The
Robertson Winery model is a prime example of how it can be done – and should
motivate small and large producers and wineries to follow suite and do the
initiative follows in the footsteps of the sustainability seal, with the wine
industry aiming to “fast track” its ethical standards in wine production under
the aegis of Wieta (also see pages 16 and 17 of the June issue of WineLand).
This article first appeared in the printed
edition of Wineland Magazine. Please visit www.wineland.co.za for more news and to
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