Monday, January 14, 2013

Police fire rubber bullets on striking De Doorns farmworkers

Farmworkers were calling on retailers to boycott the 'bad farmers' who did not want to heed their demands, Tony Ehrenreich said.(David Harrison, M&G)
Cosatu, Agri Sa and the DA are urging national government to intervene in ongoing strike action.(David Harrison, M&G) 14 JAN 2013 08:49 - SAPA Western Cape police have fired rubber bullets at workers in De Doorns protesting for better wages, says a police spokesperson. OUR COVERAGE Farm protests: Unions, DA plead for government intervention MORE COVERAGE Cosatu: Western Cape farm protests to intensify W Cape government: Defuse farm protests Minister "The protest in De Doorns erupted at around 3am this morning and police intervened and used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd," Warrant Officer November Filander said on Monday. "People were arrested, but I have no further details on the incident. Police will continue to monitor the situation." Farmworkers in De Doorns in the Western Cape want their minimum R69 daily wage increased to R150. The strike began on August 27 last year, and was called off on December 4 and resumed on Wednesday. Since the strike resumed on Wednesday, De Doorns has been the epicentre of violent clashes between protesters and police. On Thursday, police used a water cannon, fired rubber bullets and stun grenades in an attempt to disperse thousands of strikers who pelted them with stones. A truck was hijacked and set alight on Saturday morning. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) offered to intervene in the strike on Saturday saying it had the authority and the skills and experience to mediate a solution. "We have offered our services – which we are empowered to do in matters of public interest – and trust that the parties will respond positively to our offer," executive director Nerine Kahn said in a statement. The CCMA said they were in a position to mediate a binding short-term agreement while the parties wait for a sectoral wage determination by the labour department. – Sapa Mail & Guarian - Farm protests: Unions, DA plead for government intervention 14 JAN 2013 05:52 - NICKOLAUS BAUER Labour protests across the Western Cape are due to intensify as various players in the saga, including ANC allies, plead for government intervention. MORE COVERAGE Cosatu: Western Cape farm protests to intensify W Cape government: Defuse farm protests Minister Western Cape farmers concede to union negotiations “Cosatu is calling on the government to get more directly involved in the strike as a matter of urgency,” the Congress of South African Trade Unions's Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich said in a statement on Sunday. Talks to end the violent wage dispute were at a standstill after parties failed to agree on who should mediate the negotiations after three days of intense unrest last week, which saw a total of 125 protestors being arrested on charges of public violence. “We are ready and willing to negotiate but it would seem the majority of farmers are not interested – so national government must now become involved,” Ehrenreich told the Mail & Guardian. The labour department has tasked the Council Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to facilitate talks between agricultural trade associations and sectorial unions – a move rejected by farm owners. “The CCMA does not have the mandate to draw a conclusion to the matter. It would seem the buck has simply been passed from one authority to the next,” Theo de Jager, deputy president of Agri SA – one of the largest agricultural trade associations in South Africa – told the M&G. Labour department declined calls “The labour minister is the one who should be out here managing the process, as her department is responsible for the sectorial determination of wages and working conditions,” De Jager added. But the labour department declined calls so far to become directly involved in the matter. “The department has stressed the CCMA should mediate between farmer organisations and all unions involved in the matter to find an equitable solution,” Mokgadi Pela, acting spokesperson for the department, said. “As a department we urge all parties to come to the negotiation table as soon as possible to end this untenable situation.” Riot police kept watch amid tensions in the region over the weekend after last week’s demonstrations resulted in police unloading a barrage of rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas at hundreds of aggressive protesters. Political conspiracies Last year around 8 000 protesters demonstrated in November 2012 over the same issues. These events have led to allegations of a political conspiracy as cause for the unrest. At the time the ANC claimed to be suspicious of "the clear collusion" between the Democratic Alliance-run provincial government and organised agriculture in the province. The DA’s Western Cape agriculture minister Gerrit van Rensburg countered the protests were politically-motivated and not a "labour unrest". The current disquiet has also been accompanied by taunts from the ANC towards the DA. 'Cry baby' Zille South African Communist Party secretary general and ruling party national executive council member Blade Nzimande on Saturday said Western Cape Premier Helen Zille should not act like a “cry baby” about the strike. “I have a message for Helen Zille. Do not be like a cry baby asking national government to intervene,” he said in an address to ANC members in Durban for the ruling party's 101st anniversary celebrations. “Go and tell the bosses to negotiate with farmworkers and give them decent wages.” In response, director of communications for the Western Cape government Nick Clelland complained of a “deafening silence” from the ANC-led government on the matter. “There is a lot of noise being made by the ANC and its alliance partners but very little offerings of a solution,” he told the M&G. 'Where is the labour minister?' “Where is [Labour] Minister [Mildred] Oliphant or any minister calling for calm in what has become a close to hysterical situation where property is being destroyed and people’s livelihoods are being ruined?” Clelland said there needed to be visible leadership from national government, and Cabinet in particular. “This is a situation where desperate people need to change their situation – it’s not a time for cheap politicking or other games ... The provincial government has been there from the start and continues to be there. It is a problem that is national; it affects all of South Africa and is only going to be solved through a collaborative effort by all spheres of government.” But Ehrenreich scoffed at suggestions of political interference and of the provincial government making any attempt to resolve the conflict. “There is no wonder this protests have turned out the way they have, as people are tired of waiting,” he said. “If you want to see this come to an end, a decent wage needs to be paid; it’s as simple as that.” Wage increase Workers demanded the sector’s minimum wage be set at R150 – more than double the current minimum R69 many labourers earn for a day’s work, as well as an improvement in living standards. But many farmers claimed this was unaffordable. “You can’t simply see the farmers as being these guys that are greedy,” De Jager said. “There is only so much workers can be paid from an affordability perspective. Profit margins are low and the more pressure the industry experiences in the manner, the less chance it will succeed.” De Jager added that the future of South African agriculture sector depended on the ability to deal with matters timeously. “We are bound to lose labour intensified industries if this carries on,” he said. “We’ve lost the coffee and tea industry already to places like Malawi and Rwanda, and the vegetables and timber sectors are next under threat.” Mail & Guardian Cosatu: Western Cape farm protests to intensify 13 JAN 2013 14:02 - SAPA Farmworkers in the Western Cape will intensify their strike in the coming week, said Cosatu's Tony Ehrenreich. OUR COVERAGE Agri SA: Western Cape farmworkers' protest 'politically motivated' MORE COVERAGE W Cape government: Defuse farm protests Minister Western Cape farmers concede to union negotiations "The farmworkers have taken a decision to intensify the strike, because the farmers are not serious about the negotiations to find a solution," said Congress of South African Trade Union Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich on Sunday. "Some farmers have indicated their willingness to increase above R100, but a number of bad farmers are opposing this," he added. The farmworkers were also rejecting a call made by the ANC for them to suspend the strike. "This is not political .... This strike can only be called off by workers and they have said it will continue until a living wage is paid," said Ehrenreich Negotiations with some farmers had shown progress, he said, adding that if agreements were reached with farmers in particular areas, the strike would end in those areas. Calls for intervention He said farmworkers were calling on Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and President Jacob Zuma to intervene in the strike. Farmworkers went on strike last year in demand of an increase in their daily wage from R69 to R150, and a coherent land reform programme. The strike was suspended in December, but resumed on Wednesday. During the often violent strike, farmworkers have barricaded roads, stoned motorists and burnt property belonging to the farms. Farmworkers were calling on retailers to boycott the "bad farmers" who did not want to heed their demands, said Ehrenreich. "Cosatu is calling on its members ... not to handle the fruit and not to load any fruit onto the ships for export," he said. "There has also been a call from workers for the food and fruit processing plants to also come and join the protest action." Ehrenreich said workers were willing to suspend the strike "should government come to the party" on Monday. Quietened down Meanwhile, police said there situation was quiet on Sunday, with no violent protests reported. "We are still keeping a huge police presence in all the affected areas to monitor the situation," said Warrant Officer November Filander. A total of 125 people have been arrested since the beginning of the strike, mainly for public violence. – Sapa MAIL & GUARDIAN - - - COMMENTS BY SONNY - - Agents of the Government appear to be the villains here. Now the 'Villains' have to end the terrorism? African accounting does not appeal to us. Tony Ehrenreich should be tried for High Treason & Conspiracy to commit Murder & Terrorism!

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