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Farmworkers strike gains momentum

Farms dotting the Western Cape countryside are sprinkled with striking labourers.

Police keep an eye on farmworkers who protest in Wolseley on 9 January 2013. Picture: Regan Thaw/EWN

GRABOUW/ WORCESTER - The farmworkers' strike appears to have gained momentum in the Overberg town of Grabouw, where more and more people have joined the unprotected industrial action that started on Wednesday morning.

Labourers in the Western Cape are demanding a daily wage of R150.

They resumed their strike today, following unsuccessful farm level negotiations last month.

Police officers in Pineview had to repeatedly clear the main road of large rocks, after demonstrators attempted to block access to the area.

Many of the labourers participating in that protest work on surrounding apple farms.

The situation was relatively calm, but emotions ran high.

"This R50 or R60 per day is not fine," said one protester.

Another man told Eyewitness News he would only return to work once farmers offered workers R150 per day.

The crowd seemed to have swelled since 8am, but the rain could cause the protest to stop.

Police will continue to monitor the situation.

PROTESTERS PREVENTED FROM ENTERING WOLSELEY

About 150 striking farmworkers were prevented from entering the town of Wolseley in the Breede River Valley.

A heavily armed police officer smirked as protesters taunted him and his colleagues.

Officers earlier formed a human chain at a bridge leading into Wolseley's town centre, wanting to prevent any potential violence.

But unionist James Cornelius said workers would remain peaceful unless they were provoked.

Striker Kenneth Carnilse said their demands were justified.

He said workers who had been working for years on farms were not offered any money or accommodation when retrenched.

Farms dotting the countryside in the region were sprinkled with labourers, with Cornelius estimating that about 60 percent of workers in the area downed tools today.

FARMWORKERS NEAR WORCESTER ABANDON STRIKE

Some farmworkers near Worcester say they will not be joining the province-wide strike as they do not want to cause trouble for themselves.

From the N1 Highway, farmworkers could be seen languidly working the fields.

As he hosed the ground, labourer Farney Slamit explained to Eyewitness News that he was reluctant to down tools, while his colleague muttered, "We'll lose our jobs."

Slamit said he did not want trouble, but added he would be happy if farmers upped their wages slightly.

One woman remarked she believed the workers' demands were justified.

Meanwhile, it was quiet in De Doorns, which was the epicentre of a violent farmworkers strike late last year.

Western Cape police have confirmed seven people were arrested today, in connection with the farmworkers strike. They will face charges of intimidation.

The N1 Highway near De Doorns and the R44 in Porterville was earlier closed to traffic.

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