S.African farmworkers gear for a day of protest

3rd December 2012, Comments 0 comments

Farmworkers in South Africa's Western Cape fruit-growing region will on Tuesday embark on a one day strike to push for higher wages, after talks with farmers broke-down, union federation Cosatu said Monday.

The Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) accused "right wing elements" within the farming lobby of refusing to consider the plight of the workers.

"The strike is going ahead. The farmworkers have been let down not only by their employers, but government as well," said Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu secretary for the Western Cape.

Last month, unprecedented unrest swept across the wine-producing region, as thousands of workers took to the streets demanding their minimum daily wages be increased from 70 rand (six euro, $8) to 150 rand.

The strike turned violent, with one person killed during clashes with police. Several farms were set alight.

Calm returned last week when some workers returned to work as talks between government, unions and farmers took place.

"The farmers have intimidated us with dismissal, but we have gone too far to turn around now," Merchia Adams of Mawubuye Land Rights, told the Cape Argus newspaper.

The civil organisation held a meeting with farmworkers on Sunday. Cosatu has threatened countrywide protests if the workers' demands are not met.

The Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut (AHI), chamber of commerce has voice concern over the planed stayaway, saying it will put pressure on the already ailing sector and lead to large scale job losses.

"Any strike now is therefore unnecessary and will not solve the grievances of farmworkers, but will in effect worsen it," AHI said in a statement.

© 2012 AFP

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