Tags: africa | farmworkers | protest | wages

South African Farmworkers Resume Protests Over Higher Wages

Tuesday, 04 Dec 2012 09:10 AM

JOHANNESBURG — Farmworkers demanding higher wages in South Africa’s biggest table grape-growing region resumed protests Tuesday in an absence of fresh talks between the government, labor unions, and the main farmers organization.

About 150 people protested peacefully near a shanty town outside Worcester in the Western Cape province demanding that the minimum wage be increased to 150 rand a day ($16.92) from 70 rand.

Employers rejected a compromise proposal by unions to raise pay to 100 rand plus a bonus based on harvest profits, South Africa’s Business Day newspaper reported.

“We want 150,” said Ricardo van Wyk, a part-time grape picker protesting outside Worcester, about 120 kilometers (74 miles) north-east of Cape Town. “It must happen today. We will strike until we get that money.”

A meeting between the negotiating parties scheduled for 10 a.m. local time was canceled by Tina Joemat-Pettersson, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Carl Opperman, provincial president of farmers’ group AgriSA, said by phone today.

A new date and time has not been set, he said. Several calls to the minister’s spokeswoman weren’t immediately answered.

Farmworkers burnt down vineyards and sheds and caused damages estimated at 120 million rand since strikes began on Nov. 6, according to AgriSA.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions suspended the strike two weeks ago so negotiations could begin.

South Africa’s worst mining strikes since the end of white minority rule in 1994 started at platinum operations in August, spreading to gold, coal and iron sites. Truck drivers went on a 2 1/2-week long strike on Sept. 24, also demanding higher wages.

The harvest season for table grapes in the province will start at the beginning of January. South Africa is the continent’s biggest exporter of the fruit.

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