For over 2 weeks now, farmworkers in different areas of the Western Cape have been striking. This is a spontaneous strike driven by workers on the ground in response to decades and decades of brutality at the hands of farmers and a government that has thus far refused to listen to workers and transform the rural landscape characterised by dependency master-slave relations, racism, sexism, starvation wages and violations of the limited freedoms won from decades of working class struggle. Farmworkers do backbreaking work sometimes for 12 hours a day to produce food and wine for everybody in this country and countries overseas yet they are forced to work under unsafe and unhealthy conditions, to drink dirty water, live without electricity, live without toilet facilities, on poverty wages, suffer threats of evictions, and violent physical and verbal abuse and intimidation at the hands of the bosses.
CSAAWU, as part of the agricultural trade union coalition – AWETUC, and the civil society Coalition of Farmworker organisations, supports the demand for R150 per day and improvements in living and working conditions – no evictions! No labour brokers! Decent housing! Equality between men and women in the workplace!CSAAWU has for nearly 2 years now been campaigning for a wage of R4500 per month. We know that R150 per day is still a poverty wage and that ALL WORKERS NEED A LIVING WAGE. Tens of mineworkers have been killed in the struggle for a living wage of R12 500. We salute their struggle.
The Coalition of Farmworker organisations and AWETUC have given the government until the 4th of December to meet our demands. Any negotiations in setting the new minimum wage and changes in working conditions must be worker-led. No one has the right to speak for farmworkers but farmworkers themselves through their democratically elected unions and committees. We reject all secret meetings between government, union officials and bosses. We reject government’s consultation hearings. This will serve to divide workers and no expert can decide for us what we need to live a decent life – we know what we need! No less than R150 per day! Some workers are still striking and some workers have gone back to work until the outcome of the 4th. CSAAWU has consistently said that we do not put our hope and trust in the government, we put it in the power of the working class. The government did not choose to review the minimum wage, they are being forced to by worker’s action. We are building strike committees on farms and mobilising in order to win the demands of farmworkers. CSAAWU members on at least 5 farms in Robertson decided to go out on strike yesterday – 19 November. There is no ‘truce’ when there are police raids at all hours of the night, when workers are arrested, when bosses are threatening mass dismissals and evictions. The farmers and the police are working together to violently repress the workers’ struggle for a decent life. Not only this, but farmers are using private security to violently attack workers. Latest reports are that the murder of a farmworker, Bongile Ndleni, on the weekend may be at the hands of private security forces.
• We demand no less than R150 per day for all farmworkers and improvements in working and living conditions.
• We demand a moratorium on suspensions, dismissals and evictions.
• We demand no victimisation of workers who participate in strike action.
• We demand the unconditional release of all arrested workers and the dropping of all charges.
• We demand an end to intimidation and violence by the police and private security.
• We demand the dismissal of the Minister of Police after the killings of farmworkers, mineworkers and others in struggle.
If the attacks on workers do not stop, we will not wait until the 4th of December to come out. We will come out in defense of our lives and in solidarity with our comrades. If bosses continue to threaten mass retrenchments, the question of ownership of land will come to the fore. Commercial farmers still own and control approximately 87% of land in South Africa – little has changed one hundred years after the 1913 Land Act. If farmers undertake mass retrenchments, the necessary distribution of land under workers control must take place so all can live a decent life.