Chamber questions farmworkers' strike

The Cape Chamber of Commerce has questioned logic behind another farmworker strike.

Many farmworkers in the Hex River Valley complain about their living conditions. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday questioned the logic behind a planned strike by farmworkers in the Western Cape.

Thousands of farm labourers are expected to down tools on Wednesday for indefinite industrial action.

They are demanding, among other things, a R150 daily wage.

They currently earn about R69.

The strike follows failed negotiations between the unions and farmers.

A violent strike first broke out in November last year in De Doorns before spreading to other farming towns.

Two people died while vineyards were torched by the protesters.

The chamber pointed out that the sectoral determination for minimum wages in the farming sector could not be adjusted until later this year.

Western Cape Agriculture Department's spokesperson Wouter Kriel says wage negotiations at individual farm levels are still ongoing.

"Nobody knows the details yet, so it's difficult to embark on a strike now and say that negotiations are disappointing if you don't actually know what's transpired."

Farming activist Petrus Brink says these talks have come to nothing.

"We don't have negotiation partners and we don't want farmer-to-farmer negotiations because that will only be in favour of the white commercial farmers."

The chamber's labour analyst Michael Bagraim said union calls for a boycott of South African farming goods was irresponsible.

"That doesn't just destroy the farmers and the workers, but it's helping to destroy South Africa. We try to build up our good name in the international and economic industry and we're destroying it by arguing amongst ourselves."

On Monday, government appealed to farmworkers not to resort to violence during their planned strike this week.

Police will be mobilised to try and prevent the chaos seen during the previous strike.

Unions maintain workers will not return to work until all their demands are met.

A union representing the farmworkers accused employer associations of abandoning wage negotiations.

The Building and Allied Workers Union of South Africa says there are currently no negotiations taking place between labour representatives and employers in the Western Cape.