Farm workers resume strike in South Africa

December 05, 2012 - 6:55:34 am

A group of striking farm workers march past a police armoured vehicle, through De Doorns, a fruit growing region about 120km north of Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday.

CAPE TOWN: Farm workers in South Africa’s picturesque winelands resumed strike action yesterday, with tension enveloping the Western Cape region but few signs of a repeat of deadly violence.

“We have had reports or workers throwing stones at trucks in the Franschhoek area,” said Porschia Adams, a spokeswoman for the AgriWes-Cape, a group that represents farmers in the Western Cape province. “But otherwise it has been peaceful so far.”

The strike, which comes at the start of South Africa’s grape harvest season, turned violent in November when workers burned vineyards, looted shops and blockaded streets with burning tyres in towns close to Cape Town.

Many of the farmers have since hired private security firms to protect their property while the police have sent hundreds of additional officers to monitor the area.

“We are operationally ready if any problems arise,” Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said.

Workers are demanding that their 70 rand ($8) wages be increased to 150 rand ($17).

Adams said a strike was unusual for the farming industry, where wage disputes were normally resolved “on the ground”. “Farm workers do not normally strike. They are partners in business and they realise what their role is. They sort their issues out on the farm with the farmers.”

Adams said farmers were “reassessing their risks and thinking about alternatives” to using labour. The fruit industry in the Western Cape employs around 200,000 permanent workers and 200,000 casual labourers.

Michael Loubser, a spokesman for Hex Valley Table Grape Farmers Association, said no violence had been reported early yesterday. AFP