Farmers say job losses 'inevitable'

Despite minimal job loss, AgriSA president says the agriculture industry has taken a knock.

Farmers. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Farmers union AgriSA says the agriculture industry has been hurt by this year's increase in the minimum wage for farm-workers, despite the fact not many jobs have been lost.

Earlier this year farmers said they would have to lay off thousands of people if wages rose much beyond the R69 a day mark.

But government raised the wage past a hundred rand a day, and very few people were sacked.

AgriSA President Johannes Moller says jobs will still go.

"It's an economic reality over the last couple of years, due to cost squeezes. Agriculture is shedding jobs. This is just one of those cost squeezes," said Moller.

UNFAIR TREATMENT

In June the Labour Department asked all farmworkers experiencing unfair treatment regarding their wages and working conditions to contact its nearest offices.

Farmworker organisations have been concerned about workers across the province experiencing a backlash from their employers since the implementation of the new minimum wage.

The new wage of R105 was implemented from 1 March this year, after weeks of violent protest action at the end of last year.

At the same time, Non-government organisation (NGO), Women on Farms received reports that dozens of farmers were claiming to be exempt from the new wage without having applied for an exemption.

The department's Thembinkosi Mkalipi said, "According to the law farmers are entitled to apply for an exemption but if they haven't applied and are paying different wages workers have got to approach the nearest Labour Department office."

GOVERNMENT PRIORITISES FARMS

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Peterson said on Thursday government is now prioritising concerns raised by farmers, stressing that any suggestion of farm occupations must be condemned.

Role players in the sector met with government and the ANC in Parktown on Thursday to discuss uncertainty in the industry.

Delegates included unions representing farm workers, AgriSA and the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (Tau-SA).

The minister says farmworkers and farmers need to live in harmony.

She described the meeting as a historic moment for the farming industry.

"It's the first time that we've brought these diverse parties together."

The minister says government is now focusing on the safety of farmers.

"Any farm murder should be condemned to the greatest degree."