Agriculture sector to go to war with government over R21.69 pay

Johannesburg – The agriculture sector is gearing up for a fight with the government over plans to hike the minimum wage.

Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi on Tuesday announced that farmworkers’ wages would go up to R21.69 an hour as recommended by the National Wage Commission.

The changes are set to come into effect next month.

Key stakeholders in the sector, TLU SA, the Freedom Front Plus and LWO Employers Organisation met on Friday to discuss the implications of the wage on the industry.

The organisations decided that they will declare a dispute with the minister of labour and employment regarding the “irrational announcement”.

“We received feedback from a wide range of farmers and other roleplayers in the value chain, which indicates that they will be forced to make amendments to accommodate these changes,” said TLU SA president Henry Geldenhuys.

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“None of the roleplayers wants workers to earn an unreasonable remuneration or to lose their jobs. We only want the government to realise that farmers cannot afford the increased wages. Any producer must see profitability as a priority to farm sustainably. When it affects profit, a farmer must make adjustments.”

Ben van der Walt, the general secretary of the South African Parastatal and Tertiary Institutions Union, said they welcome a measure of fair remuneration for farmworkers, but the ability of employers to sustain the increase must, however, be considered.

The Black Farmers Association said it will approach Nxesi to hike the farmworkers wages to at least R30 an hour. The association said the hourly wage increase to R21.69 will keep workers in poverty while large-scale farmers reap maximum profits.

“Farmworkers need to be treated with respect and paid a decent wage,” said Black Farmers Association of SA president Lennox Mtshagi.

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