Poverty has a human face. The Marikana Massacre and the farm workers strike in the Western Cape, in 2012-13, forced into the public consciousness the reality of workers condemned to live in poverty.
Poverty is, indeed, now recognised by all political parties as being one of the three main scourges disfiguring our once ‘new’ South Africa. But, for many of us, poverty still remains an abstraction that distances the meaning of what it is to be poor.
The unprecedented strike currently happening at Robertson Winery, an easy distance away from Cape Town, is a timely reminder that hard work still leaves large numbers of South Africans unable even to feed their children.
Recall the shock when we discovered, in 2013, that farm workers in the wine districts were expected to live on R69 per day. The shock shamed the Government into increasing the statutory minimum wage to R105 per day. We, who were discomforted by the discovery of poverty wages in our midst, were re-assured by the government’s quick action. We thankfully returned to the unthinking spending of several times the improved daily wage feeding ourselves at any one of the multiple restaurants ready to spoil us.
What we chose to forget is that R105 per day is itself a knowingly inadequate wage. Research bodies were quick to point out that even the R150 per day that the workers had been seeking could not sustain a family of 4.
That was in 2012. Inflation – especially when measured for poor families – means R150 buys even less in 2016.
The gross wages of the workers on strike in Robertson range from R95.34 to R115 per day! Since negotiations started 4 months ago, workers have been disciplined and calm yet bosses refuse to compromise or negotiate. The Robertson Winery have offered their workers a daily increase that begins at R8.80!
The upsetting aspect for many of the Robertson Winery workers is that they realise that Robertson Winery is making hundreds of millions of Rands in profits every year.
The workers from Roberston Winery are resolute and clear, they do not want an increase of R8,80, they want enough money to live – they are demanding a living wage, and they will continue fighting until they get what they deserve.
The most effective way of showing our support for the workers and outrage is to boycott all Robertson Winery wines. Look for the label – and then buy something else.
Jeff Rudin (Alternative Information & Development Centre _ AIDC)