Farmer accused of cutting electricity and food credit to break strike

Tessa Gooding
News
Seventy employees at Leeuwenkuil Farm refused to work for five days until five of their colleagues were reinstated, according to the Commerical Stevedoring Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU).

Employees took part in the agricultural general strike on 13 November in support of the De Doorns protests. Following this, five farm worker leaders were suspended for striking and the remaining employees refused to go back to work until the five were reinstated.

The De Doorns protests began at least as far back as August. GroundUp covered the story of a De Doorns farm at the centre of the protests on 5 September. The strikes have escalated in recent months as has violence between farm workers and farmers. Recently farm workers began calling for a wage of R150 per day. Many are paid little over the minimum wage of R69. Two men have been killed and many more injured.

The union CSAAWU has claimed that Leeuwenkuil workers' electricity and credit was cut off to force them back to work. Farm owner Willie Dreyer neither denied nor confirmed these developments but said that he had invited the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) onto the farm to investigate these allegations and would share their report when it was available.

A CSAAWU spokesperson responded that Dreyer did not invite CCMA onto the farm. She said the union approached the Human Rights Commission on the workers' behalf and the commission in turn put pressure on the CCMA to visit the farm. The CCMA visited the farm on Friday 16 November along with Lawyers for Human Rights to investigate these allegations.

Candidate Attorney Cindy Williams at the Stellenbosch office of Lawyers for Human Rights said, ''We visited there on Friday to assist in the negotiations between the workers and the farm owner.'' She explained that, ''the electricity hadn't technically been cut off but was provided on a credit system and the farm owner had cut off their access to electricity and food credit.'' She confirmed that on Monday of this week, the suspension of the five farm workers was lifted and workers were again able to access food and electricity on credit, which they then pay for when they receive their wages each month. The 70 employees returned to work the same day.

CSAAWU General Secretary Karel Swart met with The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) on Monday. The LRC's Regional Director Sheldon Magardie said, ''We are in the process of assessing what legal action might be necessary.'' CSAAWU hopes to file a case to the equality court on the grounds of discrimination against workers when they joined the union.

See also: Altercation highlights farm tensions.

Comments

Submitted by Clint on

It is amazing how there is a story about the farmer cutting off the electicity and credit to workers that are actively hurting him finacially and could close his business down in the end, this attitude of entitlement in this country is a problem, there a millions without jobs and money so when you have a job you should look after it, the farmer should have every right to cut the power he is paying for and stop the credit on his account for ungreatfull idiots that do not see the big picture, 50 plus commercial farmers per month are looking at moving to other african countries to farm there umder favorable conditions where they are appreciated, the this wage issue will onoy result in job loss due to high wage demands and automati8n in farming sector. Wake up before you starve.

Submitted by Brendan on

Before offering another sob story about the eternally oppressed farm owner, ask yourself how you'd live on 70 rand a day.

The 'big picture' is glaring wealth inequality, sky-high inflation and abysmal wages. To attribute it the greed of workers is more than a little farcical, given that there are people out there - in government and private industry - who think that paying people 8 rand an hour is not only a good thing, but essential for economic 'well-being'. Any thinking person knows that such a sum is only slightly better than slavery, and the fact that there are so many unemployed people waiting in the wings to take the places of those who receive this paltry wage doesn't excuse it.

If anything, it only confirms the inherent injustice of modern South Africa, where the attempt to 'compete' with the likes of China as an export-driven economy has led to a form of economic slavery - a new Apartheid. Instead of attacking workers, who are only trying to make a better life for themselves and their families, point the finger at the real culprits - big business in Europe and North America, which robs South Africa of its wealth under the guise of 'free trade', and a parasitical and avaricious elite at home, which takes its own massive cut at the expense of working people.