Agricultural sector starts process against minimum wage for farm workers

TLU SA, the Freedomfront Plus, LWO Employers Organisation, and other roleplayers from the agricultural value chain gathered yesterday to discuss the minimum wage of farmworkers, effective 1 March 2021. The department of labour and employment pushed through the increase of 16% despite various agricultural industry inputs, which questioned the proposal’s sustainability and emphasised its implications.

“We received feedback from a wide range of farmers and other roleplayers in the value chain which indicates that they will be forced to make amendments to accommodate these changes,” says Mr Henry Geldenhuys, the president of TLU SA. “Unfortunately, most of them have decided to close all labour intensive divisions like growing vegetables to switch to more mechanised ways of producing food.”

The meeting agreed that the changes would mostly affect unschooled workers and lead to them falling into unemployment.

“None of the roleplayers wants workers to earn an unreasonable remuneration or to lose their jobs,” says Mr Geldenhuys. “We only want the government to realise that farmers cannot afford the increased wages. Any producer must see profitability as a priority to farm sustainably. When it affects profit, a farmer must make adjustments.”

The meeting suggested that the minister for labour and employment, Mr Thulas Nxesi should give feedback on the input process and confirm if they considered any of the suggestions in making the final decision. The minister for agriculture, Ms Thoko Didiza, will be asked if she was part of the process and why she is not taking a stand for agriculture.

The roleplayers further suggested legal recourse and political and public pressure to prevent the increase from being implemented.

The attendees agreed that the process needs the cooperation of all roleplayers in the value chain to protect agriculture’s sustainability. The group decided the following:

  • Agriculture will declare a dispute with the minister of labour and employment regarding the irrational announcement. In this regard they will ask the minister – during an official meeting – to put the minimum wage on ice until the dispute can be settled;
  • The Freedomfront Plus will officially discuss the matter in parliament with both the ministers of labour and agriculture;
  • The LWO Employers organisation will create a guiding document to highlight the available legal remedies;
  • To initiate the legal process to test the irrational action in the court; and
  • The agricultural industry will increase public pressure and encourage as many roleplayers to support the matter, financially or otherwise. In this regard, the group will create petitions in support of the affected workers.

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