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Farmworker 'levies' may up tensions

Cosatu says owners charging farm workers for basic services may add to sector tensions.

Cosatu says owners charging farm workers for basic services may add to sector tensions.

CAPE TOWN - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) believes farm owners are now charging their workers for basic services, which may raise tensions in the agricultural sector.

From 1 March the minimum wage for workers in the agriculture sector will be R12,41 cents an hour, an increase from R11,66.

That amounts to a minimum monthly salary of just more than R2,400.

In 2012 and 2013, hundreds of farm workers embarked on a violent strike in the Western Cape, calling for better wages.

Cosatu's Tony Ehrenreich said, "Farmers have taken to charging workers for accommodation, water and many of the other basic things that were free on the farms before. Clearly the hostility of the farmers toward farm workers continues. This is going to give rise to heightened tensions in the sector."

The Labour Department's Page Boikanyo hopes unruly industrial action won't rear its head again this year.

"We hope it doesn't happen. But when there are challenges the department is prepared to sit down and discuss possibilities."