by Reuters

SA hikes minimum wage to R105 per day

50% increase for farmworkers

SA has raised the minimum wage for farmworkers by 50% in response to a wave of violent strikes
Minimum wage hike

The South African government has raised the minimum wage for farmworkers by 50% in response to a wave of violent strikes, but farmers have said the increase would only cause job losses and more unrest.

The Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, said the new salary, which has jumped to R105 a day from as little as R69, would come into effect on 1 March and would rise by inflation plus 1.5% in subsequent years.

The wage review follows clashes between police and striking farmworkers who were demanding that their daily pay be more than doubled to R150, in the fruit-growing regions of the Western Cape in December and January .

Farmowners, most of whom are from South Africa's white minority, say they cannot afford to pay their mostly black workers more, because of the rising costs of fuel and electricity - adding that higher wages may put jobs at risk.

Johannes Moller, president of industry group Agri SA, said the minimum wage has been pegged above the affordable level.

"This is going to have a serious negative social economic impact in the agriculture sector," he said.

Louis Meintjes, president of farmers' group Tau SA, also said the basic salary was too high.

"This is a collective notice by the minister of labour to farm labourers and farmers that from 1 March, a lot of people will be out of jobs. Farmers have no choice but to balance their income and expenditure," he said.

Job losses could spark a repeat of the farm violence in which police were forced to use rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse protesters blocking highways and torching vineyards and warehouses in the farming belt east of Cape Town.

Oliphant said the relationship between farmowners and workers, which in many cases has changed little in the 19 years since apartheid, had to improve.

"The relationship between farmers and farmworkers is difficult and needs to be far better to achieve agricultural expansion, higher employment and better living conditions," she told a news conference in Pretoria.

The strike in the Western Cape came at the end of a wave of labour unrest that began in South Africa's platinum mines in August and which swept through the trucking and agriculture sectors, hitting growth and undermining the country's investment reputation.

 

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