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Grabouw workers take Oak Valley Farm to Equality Court

Grabouw workers take Oak Valley Farm to Equality Court

CSAAWU Press Statement| 02 July 2019

Ashraf Hendricks (GroundUp)

The 3 month strike at Oak Valley Farm over wages, housing and labour brokers carries on due to attempts by the bosses to negotiate in bad faith. Despite 25 years of “democracy” the employer still sees it fit to use old apartheid wage policies and practises to run the business.

The union had 3 basic and reasonable demands, which were:

  • A minimum salary of R250 per day
  • An end to labour broking. All workers must be employed by the company.
  • An end to single sex hostels. All Workers must reside with their families on the farm

For many years the farm had coloured and white workers to stay with their families on the farm. Black-African workers were put in single sex hostels and their families were not allowed. After a long series of fruitless negotiations with the farm, the union referred the single sex hostels to the Equality court because we believe it is a violation of human dignity, discriminatory and racist. These violations will be adjudicated on 05 July 2019 in the Equality court.

We are seeking an order to declare the practice of singles sex hostels unlawful and that black workers be allowed to stay on the farm with their families. This issue was met with fierce resistance by the company. Their most recent position was that they are prepared to keep 11 workers at the hostels. Others must go. The eleven will also not be allowed to stay with their families. All of this is in exchange in exchange for a R300 per month housing allowance. This discriminatory practise is consistently maintained by the company despite interventions from the Human Rights Commission, Saftu, Csaawu, the United front and the community of Grabouw.

Despite a commitment from the company to employ some workers permanently and some on permanent seasonal some workers, they still maintain the need for a labour broker. The union position is that all workers must be directly employed by the company. Workers employed by the labour brokers have less benefits in comparison to those employed directly by the company.

The wage regime at the company is still based on the old apartheid style of payment. Subjective criteria is used to determine the salary of a worker. Some workers on grade five are earning the same as a grade 1 worker. Service of workers are not properly recognised. It is evident that arbitrary and subjective criteria was used to remunerate workers. All of this are consistently denied by the company all evidence to the contrary. The company offered a mere 6.5% for all workers.

The union went a long way to meet the company’s offer, after workers being on strike for two months. The union’s position is as follows:

Wages:

  • 8% increase for grades 1&2 and
  • 6.5% increase for grades 3,4,5&6

Housing allowance: 

  • R300 per month for all workers to be paid with immediate effect
  • An additional R150 must be paid within six months’ time. This is to equalise the payment among all workers.
  • This offer must not be linked to the eviction of other workers from the hostels

The union is not in a position to negotiate anything around the hostels as this matter is sub judice.

Labour broking:

  • We demand an end to labour broking and agreed on a process to achieve that.

With all of this it seems that the company is not prepared to settle. This is not an issue of affordability. Despite the substantial compromise from the union in an attempt to bring the parties closer, the company still refuse to agree. This is typical apartheid “kragdadigheid”. It should be noted that the difference between the company and the union is very small.

The union will be consulting its members as well as the community of Grabouw on the way forward.

For further information please contact the Csaawu general secretary, Trevor Christians at 064 048 8822. 
 
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