Report on the oversight visit to Western Cape farms: discussion

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Employment and Labour

27 February 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee discussed the draft report on the oversight visit to Western Cape wine farms from 23 to 27 January 2012.  Members corrected minor grammatical errors in the report and also highlighted matters that were either not captured correctly or omitted. A Member brought up a contradiction in the report.  The report said ‘workers did not pay rent’, but further on, it said that they paid for electricity and houses. This was clarified to read that workers paid R150 for electricity and did not pay for houses.  The report stated that one farm paid its workers through the Dop system, but in reality, a percentage of the workers’ salaries were paid with alcohol.

Members highlighted that the following points needed to be included:
•Managers had cut off the water and the workers had to use the water from the mountains.
•Workers were not allowed to join unions or express their concerns.
•Some long serving workers ‘earned the same salaries as those who had just started working’.
•On one farm non-South African workers had no proof of payment.

Members called for the inclusion of the issue of ill workers and their lack of access to care.  There were issues of non-compliance after inspections, and the Committee stressed the importance of follow-up.  The Chairperson said an audit of the last five years was necessary to know what was improved, what was changed, and what the Department of Labour did to enforce compliance.

The Chairperson said the Committee needed to have a joint meeting with the different departments in order to address this matter. It was suggested that the Wine Industry Ethic Trade Association participate in the Committee’s meeting, since it could help to solve issues.

Meeting report

Report on the oversight visit to Western Cape farms
The Chairperson stated that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the draft Report of the oversight visit to Western Cape farms from 23 to 27 January 2012. Thereafter, he requested Members to peruse the document and give their inputs on it.

Mr S Motau (DA) said that he and Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) were not at the wine farm visits.

The Chairperson said that his name was misspelled on page one.

Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) noted that on page two, paragraph three, it said ‘workers did not pay rent’, but further on, it said that they paid for electricity and houses. This was a contradiction.

The Chairperson clarified that the workers only paid R150 for electricity and did not pay for houses.  A correction needed to be made.

He further noted that just before the second paragraph on page two, it said the workers’ salary was paid with alcohol.  This was not correct; a percentage of their salary was paid through the “Dop system”.  

Finally, the Chairperson pointed out that in the last paragraph, there needed to be a correction to read ‘two managers’ and ‘conducted’.

Mr Van der Westhuizen made a spelling correction.

The Chairperson observed that one of the farms had no cross-ventilation.

Mr Van der Westhuizen observed that on page five, the farm’s name was spelled differently in two places.  The name was to be clarified and corrected.

He pointed out a couple of grammatical errors.  The report said that ‘people lived in the farm’, and it should be ‘on the farm’.   The report also said ‘leakages on the roofs’, which was not correct.  

Ms H Line (ANC) said that on page eight, it needed to be included that managers had cut off the water and the workers had to use the water from the mountains.

The Chairperson said the Committee should check with the local municipalities to check up on this matter.

Ms Makhubela-Mashele said that the Committee just needed to capture the point in the report.

The Chairperson replied that he was just raising a point and wanted follow-up. 

Mr Van der Westhuizen said that the report should not use the word ‘workers’.

The Chairperson asked to double-check the spelling of a name.

Ms Line mentioned that one of the complaints of the workers was that they were not allowed to join unions or express their concerns. This point needed to be reflected in the report.

She also suggested that more detail should be provided concerning workers ‘earning the same salaries as those who had just started working’ on page ten of the report.  One of the workers had been there for 34 years and another for 25, earning the same amount as workers who had only been there for six months.

At another wine farm, one of the concerns was that workers were working on two farms and did not get extra pay for working on both.  In the contract that the employer gave to workers, a clause said that workers would not get overtime on either farm. 

Another farm had a similar complaint about workers’ salaries.  Those who had worked ten years earned the same as those who had worked one year.

A different farm paid South African workers through the bank, but non-South Africans had no proof of payment. On this farm, workers had to pay for houses and electricity.  There was also an ill child and an ill woman and they could not get to town for assistance.

The Chairperson said that the exact amounts that workers paid for housing and electricity needed to be reflected in the report.

Ms Line noted that at one of the farms, ten workers did not have uniforms.

At another farm, the owner made use of seasonal workers and there were no formal agreements about payment.  Thirteen workers stayed in one house, and three were sick with tuberculosis.  This needed to be reflected in the report.  Only one worker had a contract signed in November 2011, but the other had none.

Mr E Nyekemba (ANC) said that Members raised issues that the workers brought up, and he asked what central management’s position was.  He indicated that sometimes workers said things because Parliament was listening to them.  This was not to say these issues should not be reflected in the report, but more oversight was needed.

The Chairperson said that there was seniority in all organisations, and the Committee needed to look into the matter because it was fundamentally unfair.

Mr Motau indicated that the report needed to capture these things so that something could be done, and agreed with the Chairperson that follow-up was important.  

Ms Line noted that the last paragraph on page 11 said that ‘workers bought their own clothes and shoes because the owners did not provide uniforms’, but this was not quite correct.  Workers had to pay for the clothes and safety shoes.

There was an inspection completed of a farm in September 2011, but the manager still did not comply and there had been no consequences for this.

The Chairperson said that the Committee needed to make follow-ups.  What was the Department of Labour doing to ensure compliance?

Mr Nyekemba pointed out the second paragraph on page 13 that said, ‘the Department must introduce sector-specific inspections’.  He said that the Department had already realised this.  The report needed to say that the Department must ‘pick up the specialisation of sectors’.  This took a lot of time to be realised.

The Chairperson said the Committee could not adopt the report in this meeting, but urged Members to look at their notes closely and be ready to discuss the report further.

Mr Van der Westhuizen said that even though he was not part of the visits, he completely accepted what was in the report.  He believed the most important part of the report were the recommendations.  He wondered if the Department of Human Settlements could be asked to assist with the problems at the wine farms.  Farmers had expressed the need for ‘agri-villages’ so that workers could own their houses.  

Ms Line recalled that one of the farms failed to comply with an inspection from six months ago.  The workers complained about the inefficacy of inspectors.

Mr Nyekemba indicated that there needed to be follow-up in terms of inspections, and a specific recommendation was needed to ensure that the Department of Labour provided a detailed report of their inspections and action plans.

The Chairperson said an audit of the last five years was necessary to know what was improved, what was changed, and what the Department did to enforce compliance. The efficiency of labour inspectors needed to be looked at. The Code of Conduct of the inspectors also needed to be looked at.  

Mr Van der Westhuizen mentioned that ill people were not mentioned in the report.  Did the Committee have an obligation to alert the Department of Health? Where were the mobile clinics to help these people? What was the Committee doing as part of the government to support the people and children?

The employers needed to contribute to the skills and training of the workers.  This would increase their value to the employer as well. 

Messages needed to get to the appropriate departments; some of the issues were provincial matters.

The Chairperson said the Committee needed to have a joint meeting with the different departments so that they could raise the issues of the farms.

Ms Line said that it was fact that the Department of Home Affairs was not assisting.  On one farm, 12 children did not have birth certificates.  One woman could not get the death certificate of her late husband who had died three years ago, and therefore, could not receive his Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) money.

The Chairperson said that perhaps something could be done quickly regarding this situation. The Committee could write to the Local Home Affairs Office and explain the situation.

The Chairperson asked the Committee researcher to look for issues where the Committee could communicate directly with the local or municipal office to fix problems quickly.

Mr Motau brought up that the Wine Industry Ethic Trade Association (WIETA) wanted to see the farms.  He said the Committee should not forget them and could use their resources to help solve issues.

Mr Nyekemba noted that WIETA had requested a copy of the oversight visit report.  He suggested that it would be better if the Committee met with WIETA after it had received the report.

Mr Van der Westhuizen advised that employers of wine farms were shown that investing in their employees made good business sense. 

He also suggested that paperwork was made simpler, since it would be easier for people to conform to standards.

The Chairperson agreed and said that presently, it was not too difficult to complete paperwork.

The meeting was adjourned.  

 

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