Report on Ministerial Determination regarding Farm Workers

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Employment and Labour

17 September 2001
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Meeting report

 

LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 September 2001
REPORT ON MINISTERIAL DETERMINATION REGARDING FARM WORKERS: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT

Chairperson
: Mr MS Manie
Documents Handed Out:
Report on Ministerial Determination regarding Farm Workers
Executive Summary of the Report
Presentation by Department on the Report
 

SUMMARY

The meeting addressed issues relating to farm workers subsequent to investigation conducted by the Department of Labour.

MINUTES

The Chair noted that invitations to this meeting had been extended to stakeholders and that discussions would not be confined to Committee members only as is the usual practice. He then explained that after all the necessary inputs the Department’s recommendations would be taken to the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC) and eventually passed on as legislation. He then requested the members to address only the salient features of the document.

Mr Kettledas from the Department of Labour then indicated that an investigation conducted focused on the conditions and circumstances facing farmers being the employers and those facing the farm workers being the employees. He then said that in gathering the information there was not sufficient and good statistical information on the size of the agricultural sector and on wages and working conditions. 70 farms were used for purposes of the study.

Some of the findings are that agriculture and hunting provide 930 000 jobs or 11.4 of formal south African employment, 70% of SA farm workers are male relatively young and having small households, majority being South African and approximately two thirds being in permanent employment.

He then stated that there will be a meeting with stakeholders in October to deal with the awareness issues and that much input is encouraged before the report goes to the ECC.

The report deal with the following issues:

  • Socio and economic position of the farm workers
  • Scope for increasing wages
  • Motivation or the basis for setting a minimum wage
  • Recommendations

Discussion

Labour Conditions

Mr Ramodike asked whether the Department has identified cases of child labour while carrying out an investigation.

Mr. Olifant stated that child labour needs to be addressed, not just discussed and left at that. He said that children were still regarded in performing tasks such as picking cotton.

Ms Thabethe inquired about the working conditions of farm workers specifically their health and how they are to be addressed because they work everyday regardless of whether it is raining or snowing.

Mr Moropa pointed out the need to incorporate the farm workers into community through facilities such as transport as they are a very isolated sector of the community.

Mr Middleton stated that farm workers are facing the problem of unavailability of accommodation when they loose their jobs since they live at the farms. He further said that there is no facility for retired workers.

Payment Conditions

Mr Ramodike indicated that workers are being transported on open trucks even when it rains and then this is regarded as payment in kind.

Mr Moropa inquired as to who determines the value of payment in kind and how it is constituted.

Mr Mackintosh pointed out the need to be careful when talking about payment in kind and wondered as to whether share cropping was borne in mind in this instance.

Mr Middleton followed by raising his concern with housing being regarded as payment in kind.

Mr Ramodike inquired as to whether the industry is in a position to accommodate increments.

Mr Mackintosh then speaking in his capacity as a farmer, stated that he has no problem with the minimum wages recommended.

Data and Sources Used in Conducting an Investigation

Mr Clelland intimated his concern regarding the medical practitioners consulted while working on the report and the criteria for choosing them.

Mr Kumalo of the South African Agricultural Plantation and Allied Workers Union (SAAPAWU), referred to the fact that there has been an indication to the effect that 70 house farms were used in researching and requested for the breakdown of recommendations from other sectors which were approached.

Mr Mackintosh indicated that he has a problem with a survey which was conducted using activists while it is meant to be an independent survey.

Mr Middleton inquired as to the criteria which was used by the Department in selecting 70 farms since it may not be representative of various categories of farmers.(good and bad ones).

He further asked whether there were any trade unions contacted.

Mr Clelland pointed out the discrepancy between statistics for job losses in the report addressing domestic workers and this current report on farm workers.

There was also a concern to the effect that the information specifically figures relied on are outdated since they from 1996.

Children Malnutrition

Mr Khumalo (SAAPAWU) stated that the issue is pointed out in the report but the Department does not seem to dwell much on it or even indicate how it is to be addressed.

Magisterial Districts

Mr Khumalo felt that this division was going to create problems. He then said that there should be some form of prohibition on scaling down payments by the farmers who are currently paying satisfactorily.

Working Hours

On this issue Mr Khumalo pointed to the report recommending that farm workers work more during peak time indicating that they are already overworking and this will complicate matters even further. He wished to know as to how enforcement is to be carried out.

Ms Thabethe inquired about the flexibility of working hours in order to enable workers to devote more time when it is convenient in order to cover up for the days during which they will not be available. She wondered if it could be easily monitored with a clear record being kept.

Mr Gobber responded by explaining that he is of the view that constant payment should be regardless of the inconsistency in working hours. He stated that the law is clear and stipulates that records be kept. In case of school children he said that work should not interfere with school at all.

Poverty

Mr Moropa expressed interest in poverty related issues and what could be the cause. He pointed out to high levels of debts which workers owe their employers and felt that this is one of the impoverishing issues when there could be a possibility that the prices in such shops may not necessarily be reasonable but the workers would not be having choice.

He indicated this issue had to be addressed.

Accommodation

Mr Mackintosh expressed concern on the issue of accommodation stating that he finds the standards set out a bit too high whereas it should be borne in mind that farming helps the uneducated to earn when they could not otherwise.

Mr Olifant sought clarification as to whose responsibility it is to facilitate for housing, that is, whether farmers as the employers should provide.

One speaker(ANC) commented in his capacity as a farmer, saying that he believes in the betterment of working conditions.

He then stated that it takes 6 months to 2 years before there is income in farms and that there is currently a decline in net profit while expenditure escalated. He felt that there had to be a plan in saving farm business. He promised to avail the report to the Committee reflecting the status of farming operations.

Overall Comments

Mr Khumalo said that the report still had the positive aspects to it in issues such as in cases of sickness and matters concerning a night watch.

Ms Thabethe stated that she welcomes the report and that intervention in issues such as minimum wages should not just be from the Government alone.

Mr Mshudulu thanked the Chair for inviting SAAPAWU and indicated his wish to hear from the stakeholders as to how the report has been of benefit to them. He urged the Department to address the concerns of the stakeholders. He ended up by saying that the outstanding problem is still relating to enforcement.

Mr Olifant was of the view that enforcement is not an issue of the Labour Department alone but everybody else. He also said that farming has a bad image and that this has to be changed.

At the end of all the comments the Chair explained that the Department would not comment on the questions asked but would just note them and work towards incorporating them. He then asked the Department to issue out closing remarks.

Mr Kettledas then on behalf of the Department expressed appreciation for the comments and said that when people look at the report, it should be in conjunction with s54 of the Basic Employment Act.

 

 

 

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