Posts Tagged ‘De Doorns’

(image courtesy of Aletta Gardner/EWN)

(image courtesy of Aletta Gardner/EWN)

 

As the smoke clears after the unrest in various fruit-growing areas of the Western Cape, and with the next round of protests demanding higher wages for farm labourers and seasonal pickers on its way, the South African wine industry is weighing up the implications to its business model and to the way of life for many among the vineyards.

 

To date, the strike for an increase in the minimum wage from R69 to R150 a day – which has involved the intimidation of farmers and their full-time employees, looting, the destruction of property and the loss of life – has largely been confined to fruit farms that do not produce grapes for making wine.

But with cellars gearing up for the 2013 harvest and the pay dispute apparently no closer to resolution than it was when violence broke out in De Doorns, Wolseley, Grabouw and elsewhere last year, it seems inevitable that more wine farms – especially those using part-time workers – will soon become the focus of attention for the strike leaders as well as the political and criminal factions seeking to gain from the protests.

Should the wine grape harvest this year be seriously disrupted, it is a very real possibility that some farmers could go out of business.

Many will be among those whose only source of income comes from the grapes they sell to wine producers and whose business model revolves around low prices and large tonnage. Others up against the wall will be those making or selling wine whose success hinges more on offering the best prices than it does on the best quality, and who operate in sectors of the market where branding is not a factor.

On the other hand, the South African wine industry also comprises large corporations as well as a number of private wine farm owners with the means to weather the storm.

Many of these stakeholders are already paying way better than the minimum wage while providing their staff with decent accommodation and more, such as crèche and church facilities.

But of as much concern to these stakeholders as the cost implications of having to pay more to their workers or hiring fewer people and opting for increased mechanisation is the straining of the relationships they have with the farm hands and how to embrace a business model revolving more around quality and branding rather than tending to play the price card.

 

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Protest action on farms during the heart of the picking season will severely hurt the sustainability of farms and could result in job losses, the farmers’ union federation Asuf said on Friday.


The Agri-sector Unity Forum said that ongoing labour unrest in the Western Cape’s fruit producing regions will impact negatively on production, the ability to serve local and international markets and the viability of farms.

“The knock-on effects of higher food prices and retrenchment of workers will follow as enterprises are forced to either or close down,” said Asuf in a statement.

The umbrella body, who represents all major agricultural unions, said the mechanisation or venture into less labour intensive industries would inevitably lead to greater unemployment.

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Strikers were turning away trucks and buses in the Wolesley area to stop non-striking farm workers from going to work on Wednesday, SABC radio news reports.

They had also closed a road into a nearby township.

It was also reported that farmers in the Hex River Valley had employed private security personnel to protect their property against strikers.

Western Cape farmworkers went on strike last year, demanding that their daily wages be increased from R69 to R150. They also wanted a coherent land reform programme.
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WINE producers are on tenterhooks amid hopes that a good 2012-13 crop could boost exports and help offset other issues in the industry.

Industrial action last month led to the death of two people and caused damage worth about R100m in the Western Cape. Farm workers were demanding an increase in their daily wage from R69 to R150.

The strikes are due to start again on January 9, which is also meant to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Land Act that confined black people to only 13% of the country’s land mass.

Wines of South Africa chairman Johann Krige said yesterday it was still too early to tell if there would be a bumper crop. “We have had a reasonable hot spell for about a week and it is too early to say what impact that would have on the current crop,” Mr Krige said.

Last week, the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis) said the current crop would be… read on

 

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Farm unrest continues in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Farm unrest continues in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Seven suspected far-right extremists arrested as farm workers strike again over wages.

Police arrested seven armed men on Tuesday as farm workers in South Africa’s picturesque winelands resumed their pay strike amid tension enveloping the Western Cape region.

The detained men, suspected to be members of the far-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), were found with a firearm and 60 rounds of ammunition at a roadblock leading to the epicenter of the dispute, which coincides with the start of South Africa’s grape harvest season.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said the seven were driving in the direction of De Doorns, a grape-growing area outside Cape Town, when their vehicle was searched.

It was in De Doorns that unrest over the farm workers’ complaints about their wages came to a head last month. The resulting violence led to two deaths and vineyards burnt. As well, shops were looted and streets were blockaded with burning tires in towns close to Cape Town.

Many farmers have since hired private security firms to protect their properties, and… read on

 

 

Farm labourers striking in the Western Cape, South Africa.

 

South Africa’s government says next week’s deadline set by vineyard workers for a wage increase will not be met, leading unions to warn of more violence and death.

 

Labor minister Mildred Oliphant said any increase in the workers’ minimum wage could not take place until April. “The deadline of the fourth of December, 2012, is practically impossible to achieve,” she declared.

Workers near Cape Town have vowed to resume protests if their daily minimum pay is not more than doubled to 150 rand ($17) by Tuesday.

The country’s biggest labor group, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), quickly warned that the delay could fuel protests that carried “real dangers of violence and death.” It added that… read on

Labour unrest in rural Western Cape.

Labour unrest in rural Western Cape.

Negotiations on farmworkers’ wages planned for Thursday.

South African police have reported that violent protests by farmworkers demanding wage hikes have left two people dead.

“The body of 40-year-old Bongile Ndleni was found in his residence on Saturday morning. Indications are that he was shot on Wednesday … on a farm in the Prince Alfred Hamlet area,” said regional police spokesman Andre Traut. The small town of Prince Alfred Hamlet lies about 150 kilometers northeast of Cape Town.

Traut added that a murder inquiry had been launched into the death of the seasonal worker: “We have reason to believe that his death was caused by a gunshot wound, and therefore a murder case was registered.”

The unrest that has shaken the Western Cape farming heartland started earlier this month in De Doorns, a grape-farming town outside Cape Town, where vineyards were set alight.

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