ATC120306: Report Oversight visit to farms in the Western Cape, dated 6 March 2012

Labour

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Labour on the oversight visit to farms in the Western Cape, dated 6 March 2012

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Labour on the oversight visit to farms in the Western Cape , dated 6 March 2012

 

The Portfolio Committee on Labour, having conducted an oversight visit to 20 farms in the Western Cape province from 24 to 27 January 2012, reports as follows:

 

1. INTRODUCTION

 

Towards the end of 2011, the Portfolio Committee convened a meeting with various stakeholders to discuss conditions of farm workers in the country. Some of the recommendations that were proposed in that meeting included various ways in which Parliament could conduct effective oversight, i.e. by involving various stakeholders who are actively involved in the sector. As a result, the committee undertook the oversight trip with the objective of assessing how labour inspectors perform their duties in this sector in order to understand their daily challenges and to avoid making unreasonable expectations and recommendations that are misplaced and impractical. It is therefore proper to state that, the committee’s visit was based on building cooperation amongst stakeholders, to ensure that the sector understands the benefits in the proper application of the labour law (to build pleasant workplace relations and to ensure decent living standards for all workers). Moreover the oversight visit was a continuation of the work that the committee had already initiated in 2011 of contributing towards a Decent Work Agenda. Whereas the agricultural sector is critical in creating employment in the South African economy, however this should be achieved within the confines of guaranteeing rights at work, extending social protection and promoting social dialogue. To fully achieve Decent Work Agenda objectives, work should ensure that work standards are benchmarked against international best practices.

 

In line with the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) four objectives, the committee’s visit envisioned a proper application of the South African Constitution that guarantees everyone the right to human dignity and fair labour practices, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, No 75 of 1997 together with the established Sectoral Determination, Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) and the Unemployment Insurance Act In conducting the oversight visit the committee divided itself into two groups..

 

 

2. GROUP 1, DAY 1

The parliamentary delegation comprised (Group 1): E Nchabeleng (Chairperson and group leader), G Boinamo (MP), L Makhubela-Mashela (MP) and I Ollis (MP).

 

 

2.1. MIDDELPLAAS (KEEROM) FARM

 

The committee met with the farm owner and the rest of the management team to discuss the purpose of the visit and to introduce stakeholders that formed part of the oversight. The committee then met with workers on the farm and inspected the workers’ accommodation facilities and the rest of the working environment. These are some of the issues that were raised by both the farm owner and the workers:

 

According to the farm owner, he had a good relationship with workers on the farm. Whilst a percentage of the workers’ wages was paid in alcohol ( dop system) in previous years, he stopped it in December 2011. He also assured the committee that he is committed to the welfare of farm workers and would make the necessary changes in order to achieve it. The employer bears the scholar transport fees as farm workers’ children did not have state-subsidised transport.

 

On accommodation, workers did not pay rent; they paid R150 per month for electricity and have running water and flushable toilets. The general living conditions were habitable.

 

The employer deducted unemployment insurance contributions which were reflected on the payslips. However, there were concerns raised regarding employees who did not have contracts of employment. In addition, workers’ payslips did not reflect the required information such as hours of work, and overtime payments were not properly managed.

 

Upon inspection of the farm, the Department of Labour’s inspectors raised the following concerns:

· Workers were not provided with protective gear when spraying pesticides in the vineyards, e.g. masks.

· Some of the equipment and tractors were not properly covered for safety.

· Some tractor drivers did not have licences to drive tractors.

 

Although there were serious issues that were raised by inspectors, the committee appreciated the employer’s overall willingness to cooperate and the welcoming approach towards observations that were made by the committee. The department issued notices and would visit the farm in 21 days.

 

 

2.2 KORAANSHOOGTE BROEDERY FARM

 

Koraanshoogte Boedery farm is owned by a South African-American who permanently resided in the United States of America . The farm was run by the owner of a neighbouring farm and administered by two managers who lived on the farm. The last inspection by the Department of Labour was conducted five years ago. The farm had a total of 37 workers, i.e. 20 men and 17 women.

 

The employer complied with Sectoral Determination 13 minimum wages which were paid weekly and electronically. There were no incidents of child labour observed by the committee. The employer also complied with the Unemployment Insurance Act, No 63 2001 and allocated five days towards family responsibility leave, workers worked 45 hours per week and two trade unions were recognised by the employer. However, some workers had not signed work contracts and were only allowed to submit three doctor’s certificates per annum and were not paid if they exceeded the stipulated number.

 

The health and safety inspector raised concerns regarding the non-provision of protective gear for workers, such as gloves and uniforms. Although there was a shower on site, workers were not permitted to use it.

 

On accommodation, the committee heard that the houses were previously used as a storage facility for drying fruit but had later been converted as lodgings for workers. The houses were not suitably ventilated and were boiling hot in summer as a result thereof. The committee felt this needed the urgent attention of the employer as this could later lead to other related illnesses. In addition, the committee observed that although there were toilets and shower facilities, these were not well maintained and were unhygienic.

 

Due to the demand for a crèche facility, the employer accommodated a number of children in one of the buildings on the farm, which was previously used as a cold storage facility. However, upon inspection, the committee observed that the room was not properly ventilated and that the facility did not have a restroom for the kids and the kindergarten teacher. The committee stressed that the employer should ensure that this issue be promptly resolved.

 

On health and safety, the occupational health and safety (OHS) inspector raised concerns regarding the employer’s disregard for health and safety regulations, such as the use of protective gear when spraying pesticides in the vineyards. Following spraying of chemicals, workers were not compelled to wash off toxins before leaving to their homes. As a result, workers and their families were constantly exposed to health risks posed by these chemicals. In addition, contrary to the dictates of legislation, workers washed their own toxic clothes at home, further posing a risk to their immediate families. Whilst there was a shower on the farm, workers were not permitted to use it to wash off chemicals before leaving. The committee pleaded with the employer to permit workers to use the shower.

 

 

3. DAY 2

 

3.1. UITNOON FARM

 

Uitnoon farm is situated in the McGregor, Bonnievale area. It is a wine farm but also has apricots and peaches. It employs 12 permanent workers: 7 men and 5 women. They all live on the farm. According to the farmer, the Department of Labour had visited the farm before and gave administrative support to the owner. According to the workers who interacted with members of the committee:

 

· none of them had joined the union;

· there was a bus that transported their children to school without having to pay for transport fee;

· there were 3 workers who drove tractors on the farm;

· five workers were responsible for spraying pesticide and had undergone relevant training;

· the employer had become very strict about the use of protective gear when working with pesticides over the years;

· they received new uniforms twice per annum and did not have to pay for them.

 

On accommodation, the committee observed that the houses had water and electricity. All houses had solar geyser panels. The biggest houses had 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a lounge and were generally inhabitable. On health and safety, the OHS inspector raised the following concerns: Firstly, although the employer had installed a shower on the farm workers did not use it. Secondly, the protective gear was not washed by the employer. As a result, the inspector suggested that the employer should ensure that the protective clothes were washed and that a dedicated person was allocated to perform this duty. Thirdly, the windows in the shower room should be glazed to ensure privacy for workers. Following an administrative assessment, the labour inspector highlighted that the employer paid a minimum wage of R320 a week, the highest paid worker earned R470 a week, all workers had work contracts and work an average of 43 hours a week, receive bonuses in June and December and get 4 months’ maternity leave.

 

 

3.2 VAN LOVEREN WINES AND CELLAR

 

Van Loveren Wines and Cellar farm has been a family business since 1937. It is a stretch of 300 hectors of vineyard. The Department of Labour’s last visit to the farm was 2 to 3 years ago. The employer complied with Sectoral Determination 13. All workers were registered with the UIF and had a provident fund with Old Mutual. The employer deducted a certain amount towards medical coverage for all employees. There were monthly deductions for electricity and the employer paid overtime, if requested. Pregnant employees were deployed to light duty and registered with the Compensation Fund. However, there were general concerns from the workers about vague job descriptions, i.e. workers performing additional duties that they were not hired to do. As such, the inspector would assist the employer in developing precise job descriptions for workers.

 

On occupational health and safety, the OHS inspector highlighted that workers have shower facilities and disposable protective gear that did not need to be washed. The only concern was the eye cleaner that was not easily accessible to workers in case of an emergency.

 

 

4. DAY 3

 

4.1 KARIENA FARM

 

Kariena farm is a grape farm: 70 per cent white grapes and 30 per cent red grapes. There is a total of 17 workers on the farm, i.e. 6 women and 11 men. On accommodation, the committee observed that the houses had electricity, water and flushable toilets. Workers only paid for electricity and not water. However, some houses had holes in the ceiling and as a result experienced water leaks when it rained.

 

According to the administration report from the inspector, workers earned R7.40 per hour and deductions for a funeral scheme for all workers.

 

On occupational health and safety, the OHS inspectors reported that the first aid kit had expired and there were issues regarding the protective gear that was being washed by workers and not the employer.

 

The committee also heard that children from the farm had to walk long distances to school because they did not have scholar transport. Whilst the farmer would like to assist the children, he was reluctant to use his pickup truck to transport children to school as this could have negative repercussions if an accident were to occur. The committee agreed to raise the issue with the relevant Portfolio Committee.

 

 

4.2 GOUDYN FARM

 

Goudyn farm grows grapes and has a few cattle. There are 18 male permanent workers and 4 female workers who live on the farm together with 34 children ..

 

The workers’ houses have water and electricity but do not geysers for hot water. They pay R80 per 100 units of electricity. They also pay R130 per month for rent. However, houses needed maintenance as some toilets did not flush.

 

According to the administration report, wages were deposited electronically into the workers’ accounts. Workers paid R2 per month for funeral cover whilst others opted for their own preferred policies. The employer had a recognition agreement with the union, Sikhula Sonke .

 

On occupational health and safety, no shower was installed for workers to wash off chemicals and the fire extinguisher was not regularly checked by the employer. In addition, protective gear was not washed and not regularly checked to ensure that it was still suitable to be used again. Some equipment needed to be fixed or replaced by the employer due to its worn-down condition.

 

 

4.3 WOLWENBERG BOERDERY FARM

 

According to the administration report, the general administration of the farm was not well maintained, payslips were not properly done in accordance with the sectoral determination, and the attendance register was not properly maintained in order to guide the employer when making overtime payments. Employment contracts were old as they were last updated in 1999. In addition, Compensation Fund and UIF payments were not up to date (employer in arrears). The Department of Labour had committed itself to assist the farmer in sorting out the administration in order to comply with the law.

 

On accommodation, the committee observed that windows were broken but according to the farmer this was mostly due to drunken behaviour by workers. Some workers confirmed the farmer’s assertion. The roofs of some of the houses had leaks. Upon receiving the report, the farmer agreed to attend to the issues raised and the department offered to assist the employer to sort out the administration muddle.

 


5. DAY 4

 

5.1 ST MALO FARM

 

St Malo farm employed a total of 133 workers: 22 were permanent and the rest were seasonal. Following an interaction with the workers and the inspection of the accommodation, the committee observed that employees had repeatedly complained about the state of accommodation to the employer but nothing had been done. Walls were cracking even though workers paid R140 per month for accommodation (rent). There was no running water. Workers used pit toilets which were broken and the conditions were generally unhygienic. In addition, workers complained of exorbitant food prices from the farmer’s shop.

 

Creche

The main concern was the state of the crèche that was near the fruit packing factory. There was no ventilation and it was filthy. It was also used as a storage facility and was generally in a hazardous state. There were 14 children cramped in an unventilated room. Workers paid R25 per week to use the crèche. Employees, crèche staff and general workers used the same toilet facility.

 

The committee felt that the employer had to address the issue of the crèche urgently, as this posed immediate danger to the children’s health. In addition, the committee would contact the relevant authorities to attend to the situation at the crèche. On occupational health and safety, the employer was not enforcing the use of the shower following the use of chemicals by the workers. The general health and safety regulations were not applied, such as those that dealt with chemicals. The inspector indicated that some other minor OHS issues should be dealt with immediately by the employer but issued a notice.

 

Regarding the administrative issues, employer issues payslips. Work contracts were in line with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. However, the employer did not have an Employment Equity Plan in place. According to records, the employer paid for sick leave but workers disputed this.

 

 

 

5.2 WELBEDACHT FARM

 

Welbedacht is a wine farm situated on a 150 ha estate.

 

On accommodation , workers paid rent. Houses had water and electricity .. Whilst some houses were in a decent state, others had crumbling walls which were unsafe and caused cracks in the houses. Workers complained of not receiving a wage increase in three years and there were reports of physical assault of workers by the employer.

 

According to the administration report, payslips were in accordance with the BCEA, but employer’s UIF contributions were in arrears. The attendance register did not reflect the hours of work as required in order to calculate overtime and other benefits. The employment equity plan had not been developed by the employer. As such, the inspector issued an undertaking and a follow up visit by the inspector would take place 21 days from the date of issue.

 

The OHS report from the inspector indicated that a shower had been built for workers to use after working with chemicals in the vineyards. He also observed that the employer did not store chemicals on site. However, workers washed their own protective gear.

 

 

5.3 DRIEFONTEIN FARM

 

There was a total of eight workers employed on the farm. On accommodation, the general living conditions of workers were of serious concern. The place was literally disintegrating and uninhabitable. The roofs of the houses were generally unsafe and could collapse at any moment. The wiring of the houses was also unsafe and some wires were exposed. More concerning was the observation that some workers stayed in containers that were not ventilated. The farmer was not paying minimum wages. Employees were not certified to drive trucks on the farm and were also not provided with protective gear.

 

The administration report highlighted that the employer was in contravention of the law by not paying minimum wages and not issuing payslips to workers. The OHS report reflected that there were exposed wires which were connected directly to the plugs, some equipment was due for service, exposed wires were placed on the floor, the employer did not provide protective gear to workers and workers had never been trained on health and safety issues.

 

 

6. GROUP 2, DAY 1

 

The delegation from Group 2 visited the following farms: Middleplaas ( Keerom ); Koraanshoogte Boerdery Farm; Groenvlei ; Lentelus Boerdery ; Uitnoon ; Voordernberg ; Van Loveren Wine and Cellar; Uitvlugt ; Lord Cellar; Sewe Fonteine ; Kariena ; Goudyn ; Wiwenberg Boerdery ; Wyserdrift Trust Farm; Swrtwalle ; Morgenroodt ; St Malo ; Welbedacht ; Driefontein ; Welgemoed and De La Fontein .

 

The parliamentary delegation comprised (Group 2): B Manamela (MP) (Group Leader), A Williams (MP), T Maserumule (MP) and Helen Line (MP). Department of Labour :Ms Mandisa Gxoyiya (AD: LLO); Ms Edwina Smith; Andile Madangatya and Xola Kunene .

 

Interest groups comprised Ms Susanna Mouton and Ms Grace Khakane ( Sikhula Sonke ); Mr Petrus Brink (Farm Dweller Association); Ms Colette Solomon (Women on Farm Project); and Ms Ida Jacobs (Women on Farm Project).

 

Support staff consisted of Ms B Madikane (Committee Secretary); Ms K Tshoma (Committee Assistant); Mr BG Mani (Senior Language Practitioner); Mr BY Mbo (Language Practitioner); Mr L Nel (Language Practitioner); Ms Inga Bosch (Language Practitioner); and Mr Luthando Namzi (Communications).

 

 

6.1 GROENVLEI FARM

 

The farm had 17 workers comprising eight women and nine men together with farm dwellers who were not farm employees. The farm owner reported that when he bought the farm, he also inherited problems such as decaying buildings. Of the 34 people with partners and children, 12 had a legal right to stay on the farm. The illegal farm dwellers had turned down his offer of working on the farm as well as the subsidy he offered them to buy houses of their own in town. This would have created a space to build decent houses for the employees. The farmer felt that the issue of farm dwellers was being politicised.

 

The delegation observed that the owner did not reside on the farm. The majority of workers stayed on nearby farms. Only the manager and farm dwellers lived on the farm. Workers reported that they were happy and had nothing to complain about. They had a workers’ committee where their concerns were discussed and resolved without the interference of a third party. Farm dwellers reported that although they were not interested in working on the farm, they felt that they had a right to stay there because they were born on the farm. They had a right to basic services such as clean water supply, toilets, electricity and free movement to and from the farm during acceptable hours. Farm dwellers reported that the farmer had cut their water and that they had to depend on the water from the mountain, although it was dirty.

 

Having noted the situation on the farm, the delegation recommended that the Department of Labour should follow up on the following:

· Inspection of books for compliance; and

· Unfair dismissal due to pregnancy as reported by farm dwellers.

With regard to farm dwellers, a third party should be invited to intervene and improve the relationship between the farmer and the farm dwellers.

 

 

6.2 LENTELUS BOERDERY FARM

 

The farmer owned an orange farm and a naartjie farm with six permanent workers at Lentelus and three permanent workers on the other farm. All workers stayed on both farms with their families. During the harvesting season the workforce at Lentelus was increased by 20 to 25 seasonal workers who were recruited from nearby farms.

 

Workers were afraid to reveal or lodge any complaints. It was clear that they were not aware of their rights and were overstretched because in many instances one worker would be asked to assist on the other farm while the remaining workers were expected to cover his duties. Water was provided but the houses and toilets were in a very bad state. Each worker had one overall and a pair of safety shoes. They used the same overalls when spraying the crops with pesticides because they did not have safety clothes or rain suits and they took them home after work to be washed. By doing so, their families were exposed to chemical fumes. They used farm transport into town and to the doctor.

 

There was compliance with occupational health and safety standards in the storeroom, which was in a good condition with clear classifications and all the necessary paperwork. The farmer was advised to have two fire extinguishers inside and outside the storeroom. The delegation assured workers that the transportation of school children and the issue of housing would be communicated to the relevant department. Administration was not up to the required standard. There was non-compliance in regard to pay slips, the attendance register and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). One worker was not registered with the UIF. Therefore a certificate was issued to the farmer by the inspector from the Department of Labour, giving him 21 days to rectify the identified shortcomings.

 

 

7 DAY 2

 

7.1 UITVLUGT FARM

 

The farmer informed the delegation that he had 11 workers on the farm: six men and five women. Four families lived on the farm and their children were driven to school by the farmer. Workers walked to work and sometimes got a lift when there was transport that went their way. Water, sanitation and electricity had been provided without charge. Workers reported that they earned R750 in two weeks including deductions for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and funeral cover. A once-off payment was also deducted from those workers who ordered groceries from the farm shop. Workers heard for the first time about unions and were not visited by union representatives before. One grandmother reported that funeral cover was deducted from her husband’s salary. On his death the farmer covered the costs and nothing was given to her thereafter, not even a report on how much was received or spent on the policy. Workers also reported that they were not allowed to join a union and did not have a formal platform to raise their concerns.

 

Workers reported that one inspector informed them that by the time they started working at 07:00, they should have had their breakfast, taken a lunch break at 12:00 and resume work at 13:30 until 17:00. The last time they saw the same inspector was two years ago when he came to buy himself a car from the farmer. Workers complained that they were not getting paid for overtime. They also complained about not getting incentives for the performance of their work. They earned same salary as those who had just started working, as some had spent more than 34 years on the farm. The delegation observed that the storeroom for chemicals was old, but had clear signage and pictures. The door did not meet the required standard, it should be a steel door and they had only one fire extinguisher instead of two.

 

The farmer did not comply with administration and book-keeping as there was no attendance register, no pay slips and no proof of Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payments. The farmer argued that they thought that they were being fair by not paying them overtime because they received full pay even if they worked half days. The farmer was advised to communicate more with workers and listen to their grievances. The farmer was given 60 days to rectify the shortcomings.

 

 

7.2 LORD CELLAR FARM

 

The cellar is owned by seven shareholders. One of the shareholders was also the farm manager. The farm had three permanent staff members: the manager, one person for administration and one as the wine maker. There was compliance on the farm as they were using the latest technology and everything was in order.

 

 

 

7.3 SEWE FONTEIN FARM

 

This is an organic farm growing grapes, peaches, apricots, artichokes and selling wood as well. It had five permanent workers and the farmer owned one third of his father’s farm. He reported that he was in the process of renovating the residential area of the workers. One house had already been completed. The renovations were prompted by the poor conditions of the houses, such as leaking roofs, blocked toilets and dirty walls.

 

The farm was not complying because there were no pay slips, no attendance register and the farmer only registered for Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) a day before the delegation visited the farm. Workers’ employment contracts specified that they would not be paid overtime. Although workers worked on two farms, they were not paid for overtime and the extra work. The farm received a notice of undertaking for non-compliance to the relevant labour laws from the department.

 

 

8. DAY 3

 

8.1 WYSEDRIFT TRUST FARM

 

The information given by the workers contradicted what was reported earlier by the farmer. Although they had the latest equipment to use pesticides, the workers were not provided with safety clothes such as masks and rain suits. The chemicals storeroom did not have a sink for workers to wash their hands and clothes. They were issued new uniforms only when the old ones were damaged. The occupational health and first-aid training provided to workers was not completed and no reasons were given. With regard to houses, the same problems were experienced as was the case on other farms, such as leaking roofs, and broken doors and windows. A notice was issued for the farmer to clear the storeroom of empty containers, to label all chemicals and provide soap for workers to wash after using chemicals. An unannounced visit would take place after 15 February 2012.

 

 

8.2 SWARTWALLE FARM

 

Although the putting up of ceilings was in progress, some houses had leaking roofs that needed urgent attention. The challenge was that the person who was doing all the repairs was also a builder in the area, which made him take time to finish the job. The farmer was issued a notice to comply within 21 days with regard to contracts that were not signed and that did not include family responsibility leave. The farmer was also advised that the chemicals should be kept in an enclosed room with signage on the outside wall.

 

 

8.3 MORGENROODT FARM

 

The farm had the largest number of employees who were mostly coming from Lesotho . Sotho-speaking managers were not aware of the labour legislation. Half of the workers had no identity documents. Challenges were experienced in relation to leaking roofs, blocked toilets and overcrowded houses. The rooms were too small and looked like stables that were renovated into rooms. The crèche building was made of stones; therefore the walls were not safe for the children as there were stones protruding on the walls. The committee also met with a very ill woman and child without any form of assistance from the farmer. In addition, there was no indication of how much migrant workers were being paid, as they did not receive pay slips.

 

With regard to administration and occupational health, the farm was compliant. The houses had electricity, water and geysers that were not connected at the time. The farmer reported that the toilets were repaired two months ago and blamed workers for being negligent. The inspectors from the Department of Labour promised to pay regular visits and to communicate with other departments to give assistance to the farm and to address the social issues of the workers.

 

9. DAY 4

 

9.1 WELGEMOED FARM

 

The farm leadership was new, working with a manager and workers who used to work for the previous owner. It had 44 permanent workers, and the number would increase by 150 workers during season. Workers complained about the pay slips and contracts that they were made to sign without any explanation. The documents were in English, which they did not understand. The majority of workers signed their contracts the day before the delegation arrived. Maintenance on the farm, including the store room, was also done on that day. Workers paid R150 for accommodation and electricity.

 

Living conditions were not healthy. Workers stayed with their children in containers which were very hot in summer and very cold in winter. Workers bought their own working clothes and shoes because the farmer did not supply them with any uniforms. Workers who did not stay on the farm did not have a changing room. They changed their clothes and kept their lunch under trees. The farm would supply water to water the trees without warning, and workers would find their clothes and food soaked. Nobody wanted to take responsibility for that.

 

The farm failed to comply with labour laws because the pay slips were not of required standard; they had no hourly rates, no overtime and no UIF registration number. There were several errors on the contracts and the first-aid box only had glucose in it. Therefore a notice was issued requiring the farm to improve on all shortcomings. Workers also reported that they had to pay for safety shoes and uniforms as the farmer did not provide any tools or uniforms. The farm was given 30 days to evacuate all workers living in the containers to more suitable accommodation. Although the farmer reported that the Department’s inspection was last conducted in 2011, the farmer was still not complying with regulations.

 

 

9.2 DE LA FONTEIN FARM

 

The farmer was the owner of the farm that was used to grow wine grapes, grain, oranges and was also a cattle farm. Permanent workers stayed on the farm and some houses were reserved for seasonal workers who were recruited from the Northern Cape . Seasonal workers were advised not to make use of tap water in front of their block as it drew its water from the river; they were to collect clean water using buckets from the main house every day. On their sixth day at work workers were still wondering whether the groceries and the train fare that had been paid for by the farmer was going to be deducted from their first salaries or whether it was just a gift.

 

Workers were not happy and there was no strategy in place or platform for them to voice their frustrations. The district doctor granted workers only one day’s sick leave no matter how sick the person was. The farmer did not care for the sick workers. He wanted them to report in person and not to send a message or someone else to convey the message.

 

One woman worker was hospitalised for two months for suffering from TB. She was last paid in November 2011. The farmer took her certificate and did not respond afterwards. The other male worker had epilepsy. He would sometimes pass out, and when he woke the farmer would feed him with sweets to boost his sugar levels instead of taking him to hospital. The farm received a contravention notice for not complying with occupational health and safety standards. The newly recruited workers did not even know how much they were going to earn. There was a case where 13 workers stayed in one house, of which 3 workers had TB but continued to share the same house with the other workers.

 

10. COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS

 

The oversight to the agricultural sector was undertaken with the view of attaining positive outcomes through dialogue and cooperation with the farming community and all stakeholders involved with the sector. Indeed the committee’s findings have confirmed some of the issues that have already been raised in previous engagements with stakeholders but also enlightened the committee’s perceptions about the work of labour inspectors in the sector. It is the committee’s view that the overall spirit of cooperation and safeguarding of fundamental principles for dignity and humanity by the Constitution and the labour legislation is often both misconstrued and disregarded. However, it is with certainty that in order to promote the values, as promoted in the South African Constitution and the labour legislation, the findings cannot be generalised hence depicting the sector as a homogenous group. Therefore, the committee made the following recommendations:

 

 

10.1 TO THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR

 

· Through training and skills advancement, the Department of Labour should strengthen its occupational health and safety inspections to conduct comprehensive inspections on the farms.

· Economic sectors vary and are faced with numerously different challenges that require precise interventions. Similarly, when conducting inspections, it is important that inspectors understand challenges of these sectors and are equipped to deal with them in order to improve the quality of inspections. Therefore, the department should speed up the specialisation dispensation of the Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES), especially in the vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, domestic, etc.

 

· The department should focus on quality inspections, which focus on a holistic assessment of the working environment as opposed to inspections which focus on administrative compliance.

 

· To achieve this, the department must explore innovative means of using resources provided by trade unions, civil society and organisations such as the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association (WIETA). In doing so, the department must cooperate with organisations such as WIETA to strengthen its inspectorate services.

 

· Having noted complaints from farm workers about the conduct of the Department of Labour’s inspectors, the committee therefore recommends that the Department of Labour should urgently address the code of conduct of inspectors when conducting inspections.

 

· The department must furnish the committee with a comprehensive report on follow-up inspections on the farms that were visited and those that were served with notice of undertakings for non-compliance to relevant labour laws from the inspectors

 

 

 

10.2 TO THE DEPARTMENT OF BASIC EDUCATION

 

· The department should assess the condition of school children at the Middelplaas ( Keerom ) Farm, as they do not have state-subsidised transport.

· The committee further recommends that the case be treated as urgent given that winter will commence shortly and winter rains will exacerbate the situation

 

 

10.3 TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

 

· Through its mobile units, the Department of Health should visit farms in order to give much needed health care support, especially where there were cases of tuberculosis (TB). An example is De La Fontein Farm where a number of workers were reported to have contracted TB.

 

 

10.4 TO THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

 

· It is understood that farmers are not obliged to provide crèches for their workers, but such an act should be appreciated and encouraged. Without deterring from the goodwill of the farmers in assisting their workers, such an act should be conducted within an understanding that children need a safe, hygienic and stimulating environment. In order to achieve this, farmers should consult with the relevant departments to assist farmers to adhere to relevant regulations. As a result, the committee recommends that the Department of Social Development should visit the St Malo Farm where children were placed under dire conditions.

 

 

10.5 TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS

 

· The Department of Home Affairs should visit farms in order to assist those workers that do not have identity documents and those children without birth certificates in order to access the required government services

 

 

10.6 TO THE DEPARTMENT OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND LAND REFORM, AGRI SA, THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SETTLEMENT AND INDIVIDUAL FARM OWNERS

 

· The committee urges the Department of Rural Development, the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Labour, together with AgriSA and individual farmers to urgently address the dire state of some houses that have been neglected and could ultimately negatively impact on the lives of farm workers. Some of the farms that need urgent attention include St Malo Farm, Driefontein Farm, Wysedrift Trust Farm, Morgenroodt Farm and Welgemoed Farm.

 

 

 

11. CONCLUSION

 

In assessing the progress that has been made in implementing Sectoral Determination 13 for the farm worker sector, progress has been made in improving the general working conditions of farm workers by a number of farmers. Nevertheless, there are also a reasonably large number of farmers who deliberately continue to circumvent labour regulations with a complete disregard for the workers health, safety and living standards. The committee concludes that such actions are a direct disregard of the government’s and the International Labour Organisation’s Decent Work Campaign, to which South Africa is a signatory. However, the committee was heartened by the acts of some farmers who genuinely received observations that were made as a step forward in building relations with their workers, unions and the Department of Labour. There was a commitment to improve conditions from these farmers. The committee also observed that there were cases where farmers honestly lacked capacity to implement some of the required administrative duties due to lack of skills. The Department of Labour committed itself to assist in those cases. In light of these facts, the committee has observed that, more than ever before, there is a role for all stakeholders to bridge the gap by providing training and capacity development initiatives in this sector.

 

 

 

Report to be considered.

 

 

 

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