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COSATU: Government needs to protect farm workers

COSATU: Government needs to protect farm workers

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has accused labour inspectors and police officers of colluding with farmers, to the detriment of workers.

The trade union federation said it was incumbent upon the South African government to intervene, and protect the rights of workers.

"The reports that some farmers are deducting electricity, water and rent money to counter the minimum wage confirms the assertion by the federation that most farmers still behave like slave masters in this country," said COSATU national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla on Thursday. 

"This exposes the exploitative tendencies of the farming sector and highlights the plight of South African farm workers. COSATU condemns these illegal deductions and urges the department of Labour to intensify farm inspections and make sure that farmers comply with sectoral determination minimum wages," added Pamla.

COSATU said the financial concerns were not the only problem though, adding that the level of physical and mental abuse remained a major issue on South African farms. It also explained it was unacceptable that so little had been done to remedy that.

"During our ongoing Back to Basics and Workplace visits campaign that started last year directed mostly at vulnerable workers, COSATU discovered that on top of these illegal deductions, many workers are forced to exceed the maximum working hours permitted by law. They do not receive the required overtime pay or time off, including overtime provisions," said Pamla.

"Most of them do not enjoy their rights to paid sick, family and annual leave. They are mostly not included under the UIF, due to the non-payment of UIF fees by the employers, and also do not enjoy full maternity leave benefits and rights.

"The majority of farm workers come from generations of farm workers and are born on the farms, where they work and have nowhere to go.

"We are happy that the ANC NEC has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring that the landless will have access to land. COSATU urges parliament to expedite the process of the finalisation of the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill this year.  We need to ensure that farm workers are protected from illegal evictions. It's not acceptable that many evicted farm workers’ dependents and relatives are still denied access to their family grave sites and also that farmers destroy their homes with no consequences."

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