Deputy Minister takes farm workers' workshop to Lady Frere on Friday

JULY 27, 2016

Female farm workers are often the most exploited and most vulnerable workers facing unbelievable discrimination in the work place.  Deputy Minister Phathekile Holomisa told workers at the farm workers’ workshop in Riversdale in the Western Cape on Tuesday.

The Deputy Minister was speaking during the Know Your Rights Campaign which forms part of a series of workshops in the Western Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape. Accompanying the Minister was the Labour Policy and Industrial Relations Deputy Director General, Virgil Seafield and Provincial Chief Inspector, David Esau.

“Females in the fields are often given the least desired, lowest-paying jobs, are the first to be laid off, receive fewer opportunities to advance, and face a culture of discrimination.  In other words, female farm workers endure nearly all the issues male farm workers face, as well as some that are largely unique, such as sexual harassment, pregnancy and gender discrimination, and the extra responsibility of being the primary caregivers of children,” he said. 

“Farm workers should receive the same statutory protection as other workers. Workers’ rights are human rights that must be protected.”

To fight poverty, the government introduced minimum wages for farm workers.  Sectoral Determination also provides detailed provisions as to how wages are to be calculated. The sectoral determination requires employers to provide farm workers with written particulars of terms and conditions of employment at start of the employment relationship.   

“No farmer worker who does honest work should live in poverty. We cannot speak about the importance of sustainable growth without recognizing the importance played by farm workers in the economy.  The world sustenance relies on farmers and farm workers as they play a critical role in food security.”

Turning to the prohibition of child labour, the Deputy Minister said that a society who cares for its children will protect them against this practice. 

“The government treats child labour and forced labour in a serious light. Our Constitution protects children from exploitative labour practices. It further states that no child may be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that are inappropriate to the child’s age or places the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development at risk.”

The Deputy Minister also said that Government was investigating the possibility of establishing a provident fund for farm workers and domestic workers. Equally important, the Department is amending the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).

This seeks to address amongst other things the tendency on part of some employers to dismiss employees on the basis of occupational injuries and or other diseases. This means an employer will have to exhaust all rehabilitation and reintegration processes before laying off an employee.

The campaign will continue in the Stellenbosch community of Kylemore on Thursday in Lady Frere, in the Eastern Cape, the following day.