News / Africa

    Strike Victory Backfires for S. African Farm Workers

    Protesters flee as police open fire during a farm workers strike at De Doorns, on the N1 highway linking Cape Town and Johannesburg, January 9, 2013.
    Protesters flee as police open fire during a farm workers strike at De Doorns, on the N1 highway linking Cape Town and Johannesburg, January 9, 2013.
    After weeks of strikes and violent confrontations with authorities earlier this year, farmworkers in South Africa's Cape Town region won a partial victory. In February, the government agreed to increase their minimum wage by 52 percent. But this victory may be a curse in disguise as many farmers subsequently reduced the workers’ benefits and laid them off, saying they could not afford to pay the higher wage. 

    Pointing at a leaking roof and broken windows, Patrick Blu is eager to show the poor condition of his house.  He says he needs a higher living wage and he believes him and his fellow farm workers were justified in striking.

    Victory backfires

    But it has not turned out as planned.  The Labor Ministry did agree to increase the minimum wage from 69 rand to 105 rand - or about $4 more a day. It went in effect on March 1.

    In theory, it was a victory. But in reality, Blu says, he is in worse financial straights than before the strike.

    "You see, that's my electricity bill,” said Blu. “Before, it was free, now they deduct it from our salary.” He adds the same goes with the housing rent, which was also free before.

    Like Blu's boss, many commercial farmers in the Cape Town region say they cannot afford the new higher wage. So instead, they cut some customary benefits like free housing and power on the farm for the workers.

    For farmer Allen Harris, the higher wage is also a curse for the majority of unskilled farm hands who are being let go as a result.

    "The situation was that farming was a sheltered position for people that were less educated and less skilled," said Harris. "Now we have to maximize skills. We have to maximize production. The poorer workers - physically and mentally the weaker workers - have now been shifted out."

    Political backdrop

    The agricultural trade association - AgriSA - argues the strike was politically-driven and the farming sector is suffering because of a political battle between the ruling ANC and the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance.

    The Western Cape region is the only province in South Africa ruled by the DA.

    Carl Opperman, AgriSA’s Western Cape chairman, says the strikes were pushed there by ANC officials to destabilize the DA.

    Opperman argues the national wage increase is not a solution to empower farm workers or reduce poverty. Rather, he says, the government should focus on helping the farms to be more productive by protecting them against international competition.

    "The South African farmer is the only framer basically in the world that has a 100 percent free market economy," he said. "We don't get any support from our government. We have got to fight our way in a world market and in our own country. We will need support, we don't need financial support, we need policy support. We need protectionism, we can justify it, not like at the moment where it is a free fall.”

    The commercial farmers’ trade union, TAU SA, says that more than 1,500 workers were laid-off in the weeks following the wage increase, in Limpopo Province alone. Whereas in the Western Cape Province, many farmers say they will not be able to hire casual farmer workers again for the winter harvest season just weeks away.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora