COSATU rejects Agri SA’s shameful attacks on the National Minimum Wage

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) rejects with contempt Agri SA’s shameful attacks on the National Minimum Wage (NMW).  It is scandalous that Agri SA seeks to deflect from the very real challenges facing the agricultural sector and chooses instead to outsource blame to farm workers’ meagre wages.

Agri SA claims that the NMW is a threat to the agricultural sector, yet independent research commissioned by the NMW Commission has shown that the economy, including the agricultural sector, has not shed jobs because of the NMW.  Our agricultural sector still largely reflects apartheid era inequalities with a very low share of its income going to farm workers.  Production per farm worker in South Africa is 20% higher than the international average yet the sector only pays farm workers 30% of the value add equivalent as compared to the 50% value add share that workers in the rest of the private sector receive.

The NMW Act allows for struggling companies to apply for exemptions.  This is conditioned upon them providing their financial statements confirming their inability to afford to pay the NMW, as well as their consulting their workers and unions.  Approximately 2000 companies to date have applied for such exemptions with about half of these receiving these.

We agree that the agricultural sector is the most strategic sector of the economy as it ensures the food security of the nation in addition to employing over 800 000 workers.  However, the real threats to the sector are not paying workers R25.42 an hour; but rather challenges with regards to reliable energy, water, global warming, agricultural diseases, deteriorating roads and rail, backlogs in our ports, over indebtedness by farms and access to international markets.  These are the very issues that COSATU and its Affiliates; SACTWU, SACCAWU and AFADWU have been working with government and business to resolve in the agricultural, sugar, poultry and forestry master plans with positive green shoots beginning to emerge, e.g. the lifting of export restrictions for beef to China.

If we are to see the agricultural sector reach its full potential, then it is time that employers treated farm workers as partners and not glorified slaves.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687