Robertson farmworkers accuse contractor of “unfair” dismissal

Employer says contracts came to an end

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Photo of farmworker Charles Limpho Morena
Charles Limpho Morena says he was unfairly dismissed. Photo: Barbara Maregele

A group of 10 migrant workers say they have been unfairly dismissed by a harvest contractor in Robertson after asking for higher wages.

The contractor, Linelle Hendricks, has denied this. He said that he would submit documents to refute the workers’ claims when the matter is heard by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on 18 April.

The group will be represented by the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union (CSAAWU).

One of the workers, Charles Limpho Morena, moved to Robertson from Lesotho with his wife in September last year.

“We both came looking for work opportunities and I ended up getting work on the farms. Things were tough back home,” he said.

Morena has been working for Hendricks since January.

“We were given contracts to sign. I don’t know what it said. I just signed because I needed a job,” he said.

“We made a lot of money picking peaches in January: R1,500 a week.”

In March he worked picking tomatoes on a nearby farm.

Morena said the workers were usually paid R2.40 per pail of trellised tomatoes picked. On 23 March they were picking tomatoes on the ground. Hendricks had not told them how much they would be paid.

“We worked the entire day without knowing the prices. The next day, we were paid R1.50 per pail,” he said.

Morena said that when they went to ask Hendricks for more money, they were told to go home.

“He told us that if we don’t want to work, he will go and call the other group of people to take our place. We told him that we want to work, but he has to increase the fee to at least R2 a pail,” he said.

“We were all just given our packages and sent home. That wasn’t right because we want to work,” he said.

Hendricks, who has accused the group of lying to the media, insisted that the workers’ contracts had come to an end.

“The things they are telling people are not what really happened. They were not dismissed. I have documents and their contracts to show it, but you’ll have to wait until the hearing to see it,” he told GroundUp.

“The R2.40 was paid for the harvesting of tomatoes for human consumption, but the ones they picked will be used for juices and other products. That’s why the price was lower. There’s nothing I can do about that,” he said.

The hearing will be held in Ashton on 18 April.

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TOPICS:  Farming Labour

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