Oliphant condemns uncooperative farmers

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on Friday blamed some farmers for the failed wage negotiations.

Gertruida Williams continued her work as usual on a Western Cape grape farm whilst labourers on other farms joined the strike on 9 January 2013. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on Friday took aim at some Western Cape farmers saying attempts by her department to avert a crippling strike in the sector failed because of them.

The strike has been dragging on for three days and has been marred by violence.

Workers are demanding a daily salary of R150 and improved living conditions.

In a statement, Oliphant lamented attempts by the ministry's director-general to broker a peace deal between unions and Agri SA were spurned by representatives of farmers.

But she also warned strikers violence will not help their cause.

Agri SA's Anton Rabie emphasised blanket negotiations for the entire farming industry are not possible.

"There are so much differences with regards to structure ownership, structure capital and crop mixture etc."

The Western Cape government has urged Oliphant to personally intervene but she is attending an ANC NEC meeting.

The ANC in the province has, however, called for the industrial action to be suspended.

Meanwhile, Building and Allied Workers Union of SA (Bawusa) spokesperson Nosey Pieterse said an agreement of some kind may be reached which could see a crippling farm worker strike in the cape suspended or called off.

Talks were held between unions and some farmers in the Hex River Valley following two days of the violent industrial action.

Pieterse said, "We are still busy engaging with farmers and we are making progress. We hope to make an announcement this afternoon."