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Farmworkers in De Doorns could once again go on strike if farmers don’t stop using labour brokers (the local term for staffing agencies), the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) warned today.
The union, which claims to have 2,600 members including foreign nationals who have migrated there as seasonal labourers, held a meeting with its members in De Doorns on Monday evening.
Despite the destructive and occasionally violent strikes in the Western Cape late last year that resulted in the minimum wage being upped from R70 per day (USD 7.71) to R105 per day (USD 11.57), FAWU says labourers were still losing work due to cheaper labour being provided to farmers by labour brokers.
Furthermore, despite Cosatu pushing for a ban on labour brokers, members of their alliance partner, the ANC, are acting as labour brokers in De Doorns, said De Doorns based union member Peter Sano.
Sano said ANC ward councillors in the community were the ones working as labour brokers, the very issue which sparked the strikes in the Hex River Valley which spread to rural towns across the Western Cape.
“Everyone knows that ANC members are labour brokers. A lot of people are losing jobs here because farmers chose to use labour brokers in order to pay less.”
FAWU general secretary Katishi Masemola said they were aware that ANC members were acting as labour brokers for farmers saying and the union was considering taking the matter up with the political party.
Premier Helen Zille’s spokesperson Zak Mbele said they have known about the ANC councillors “moonlighting as labour brokers” in De Doorns for the last six months.
He said the matter was also highlighted in a study involving interviews in the area titled ““Changing employment trends on farms in the Hex and Breede River valleys” and a second research paper titled “Violence, Labour and the Displacement of Zimbabweans in De Doorns, Western Cape” written by Jean Pierre Misago of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Forced Migration Studies Programme.
“All of these facts have been a matter of public record for weeks. FAWU should have conceded to them before but better late than never,” said Mbele.
In its statement FAWU alleged that farmers waited until “season end” before they started replacing permanent workers with those supplied by labour brokers.
“This move has fuelled more frustrations and, if unresolved, it will leave us with no choice but to embark on protected strikes and other lawful protest actions.
The union said they would engage farmers on the matter and try resolve it within the next ten days.
“We hope that farm bosses will assist us in avoiding the need for such actions by coming to the negotiation table and by using permanent workers for off-season work as well as ceasing to utilise labour-broker supplied workers,” stated the union.
ANC Youth League National Team member and director of People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty, Braam Hanekom, slammed labour broking but referred questions regarding ANC members’ involvement to ANC provincial chairperson Marius Fransman.