4000 ECape plantation workers dont get wages for nearly a year: DA

FEBRUARY 2, 2015

Following revelations by Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Eastern Cape Provincial Leader, Athol Trollip, on Thursday, that the Eastern Cape government’s turnaround efforts at the struggling Magwa and Majola tea estates had failed, the DA Shadow Minister of Labour, Ian Ollis, on Monday said he will appeal to national government to urgently intervene in the situation.

“I will today write to the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, requesting that the Department of Labour urgently intervene in the labour crisis that persists at the Majola and Magwa tea plantations in the Eastern Cape, where the non-payment of more than 4000 workers has been ongoing for close to a year,” said Ollis.

The revelations follow a recent oversight visit by Trollip and DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Annette Steyn, who found that the plantations, which are government-owned and collectively employ over 4000 workers, are allegedly in financial difficulty which has led to thousands of employees not receiving any pay – despite the fact that they continue to work.

“This claim of financial difficulty is surprising considering the plantations have received capital injection of over R200 million from government to date. The question is – where has this money gone?” said Ollis.

“Over 760 permanent workers and 2500 seasonal workers at the Magwa plantation have not been paid since May last year, even though they have been at work for the duration of the year. This is but another example of ordinary South African citizens having to shoulder the negative effects of sheer operational incompetence by the ANC government.

“While these plantations are strategically situated to provide work for the poor in isolated communities, it seems a ‘work for no pay’ culture has emerged, as workers are being abused at the hand of government. The irony is that it is the very ANC government that is so vocally pro-poor and against the abuse of workers, that is overseeing this appalling situation.”

He said while trade union, Nehawu, is currently in negotiations with government over the matter, workers continue to suffer as there remains both a deadlock and a lack of urgency.

“It is imperative that Minister Oliphant implements the following measures without fail:

  • Lead an urgent investigation into this matter, including the financial arrangements of these parastatals by government;
  • Instruct the CCMA to urgently intervene in the matter, as per the CCMA’s new powers in section 150 of the Labour Relations Act; and
  • Ensure labour inspectors are assigned to inspect and assess the working conditions at both plantations.

“The DA will continue to ensure the rights of all workers are protected, especially from state abuse,” Ollis said.

Image: A picker at a tea plantation in Kenya. Image courtesy of africanbusinessmagazine.com