New minimum wage for farm labourers to be determined
Labour Minister, Mildred Oliphant, is expected to announce a new minimum wage for farm workers next month, February 2013.
The Department of Labour announced today, 21 January 2013, that the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC) will on 24 January 2013 meet to consider inputs collected from the nationwide public hearings on farm workers’ wages. These inputs will be used to set a new minimum wage determination for farm workers.
The department’s acting Director of Labour Standards, Titus Mtsweni, said following the conclusion of the week-long special farm workers public hearings held in the epicentre of the industrial action in the Western Cape, a report will be submitted to Labour Minister, Mildred Oliphant, who will then consider the recommendations of the ECC.
Mtsweni said barring any unexpected eventualities, the minister is expected to pronounce (sic) on the new minimum wage determination early in February. He said once Oliphant makes a pronouncement on the new determination, the new wage adjustments will be gazetted the following day to effect a legislative stamp of approval.
The ECC is an advisory body comprising government representatives, labour unions and employers. It advises the Labour Minister on wages and other conditions of employment in the vulnerable sectors, including agriculture and farming.
The Labour Department concluded week-long public hearings on Sunday in Vredendal in Western Cape. Similar public hearings were also held last week in the Paarl, De Doorns, Robertson and Oudshoorn regions.
The extra Western Cape public hearings were a continuation of a consultative process that was initiated by the department last year following a bitter farm workers’ industrial action.
In November and December, the department embarked on a nationwide public hearing campaign in areas such as Worcester in the Western Cape, Boston in KwaZulu-Natal, Makhado in Limpopo, Ottosdal in the North West, Bothaville in the Free State, Keimoes in the Northern Cape and KwaMhlushwa in Mpumalanga.
The process currently underway was trigged last year when farmworkers in De Doorns embarked on a strike to have their minimum R69 daily wage increased to R150.
The strike was called off on December 4 and it resumed early in the new year.
A common theme that emerged in the public hearings from farm workers and their representative organisations was that workers were being paid “slave wages” and need a “living wage”.
On their part, farmers argue that they cannot afford high wages as they are battling to keep their business afloat amid intense competition from highly subsidised imported farm produce, which they say would force them to resort to machinery to replace human capital.
The current minimum wage sectoral determination is binding until the end of February. The new minimum wage stipulation will come into effect on 1 March 2013 in terms of Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).
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