S. African farmworkers threaten to start fresh strikes
Posted Wednesday, January 2 2013 at 16:42
CAPE TOWN, S. A:
Farmworkers in the Western Cape Province have threatened to start fresh strikes following failure by farmers to meet their demands for better living conditions and higher pay, the Farmworkers Coalition confirmed on Wednesday.
The strike would hit hard at the agriculture as January is a busy period in the fruit and wine industry, the coalition said. Farmworkers went on a strike late last year to protest against poor pay and ill treatment, resulting in millions of rands worth of damage to farm owners' property and brought the agricultural sector to a standstill. The strike ended in late November 2012 after farm owners agreed to consider farmworkers' demand. But according to the local newspaper Cape Argus, living conditions, wages and treatment of farmworkers in the wake of the mass strikes have not improved. This has prompted the farmworkers to consider further action.
Farmers previously planned to resume their strike on Dec. 4, 2012, but the action was called off by the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Speaking of further action in the new year, Farmworkers Association spokesman Mercia Andrews said the coalition was working on an urban-rural awareness campaign that would force people in towns and cities to remain sensitive to the ongoing plight of farmworkers in the province.
"During the holiday season, we want people to understand that the food they enjoy with their families is produced by people who are suffering. They don't enjoy the same privileges, and still live in dire conditions," he said in remarks published by Cape Argus. Andrews said strengthening workers' committees -- like the self- organization of leadership among workers -- would be a priority in the new year since many workers were not unionized or organized into representative structures, a stumbling block to the efficacy of collective bargaining.
The farmworkers downed tools in the town of De Doorns early November, demanding 150 rand (about 17 U. S. dollars) per day against the current 70 rand (about 8 dollars), an amount farmers say they "cannot afford." The protest soon spread to 15 other towns, leading to violence and the deaths of two farm workers. AgriSA, an association of farmers, said the protests have caused about 14 million dollars (120 million rand) in damages, with grape growers hardest hit.