The International Labour Organisation (ILO) report “Farm Workers’ Living and Working Conditions in South Africa: key trends, emergent issues, and underlying and structural problems”  provides an excellent analysis of the situation between farmers and labour.

“Farming calls for a number of skills, amongst which is the need to manage the labour force professionally and with the necessary sensitivity. The farmer is often employer, human resource manager, social worker and even mentor – all roles originating from a close relationship and involvement in the lives of labourers and their families.” Mr Lourie Bosman, previous Agri SA President

 

Photo used courtesy of Helen Gordon, WWF SA

Local business environment

Market deregulation and trade liberalisation at the close of the last century lead to a situation where value chains in the country are owned by corporates and international companies. Most producers in this country are price takers. Difficult farming conditions and the absence of subsidies have led the farmer to weigh every worker’s productivity carefully.

Producer prices in the agricultural sector have not kept pace with farming requisites.

South Africa follows the global trend of commercial agriculture where economies of scale are essential to be sustainable. This is why we have fewer farmers on larger farms, and these units are becoming more and more capital intensive. The increased use of technology has led to reduced employment opportunities. These changes were necessary for farmers to remain competitive and profitable in the global environment. (If farmers don’t do this they will go out of business and won’t produce food or employ anybody!)

Legislation regarding minimum wages and security of tenure has been introduced to protect poor and illiterate individuals from being exploited. Unfortunately these measures are also unintended disincentives for hiring permanent workers and accommodating them on farms in terms of housing. The number of seasonal workers has increased at the expense of permanent positions.

The permanent workers employed by farmers also increasingly live off-farm, resulting in pressure on expanding rural townships and informal settlements. The contributions formerly made by farmers (housing, infrastructure and services) now are the problem of local government. The farm worker community’s off-farm housing and living conditions requires attention from all stakeholders.

Sources: Adapted from AgriReview 1st quarter 2011 (find these at www.standardbank.co.za) and the ILO report "Farm Workers’ Living and Working Conditions in South Africa: key trends, emergent issues, and underlying and structural problems".

Find Farm Evictions and their Impact on Local Municipalities (2016) on the website of the Financial and Fiscal Commission, www.ffc.co.za.

The Laborie Dialogue Initiative (LDI), a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in 2015 between HORTGRO and VinPro, and the national trade union in agriculture, the Food & Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU). Its aim was to improve labour relations. The MoU confirmed the parties’ commitment to six focus areas of development identified in the Fruit Industry Social Compact (FISC) and Wine 2020 Vision:

 

  • Economic Development
  • Social Development and Upliftment
  • Human Resource Development
  • Market Access, Development and Trade Promotion
  • Knowledge Management and Information Systems
  • Technical Research, Transfer and Intelligence

 

The Fruit Industry Value Chain Round Table (FIVCRT) is a partnership (principle commitment) between government, the fruit industry and labour. It is leading the process of completing the accord emanating from the FISC with the objective of fostering collaborative industry-government actions to secure an enduring competitive advantage of the South African fruit sector.

Source: Press release 25 June 2015; BFAP Baseline Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025

Some perspectives

Progressive farmers have taken great strides in balancing worker’s rights with their own needs, resulting in more highly skilled workers, who can help farmers become more efficient.

Source: Prof Nick Vink, Stellenbosch  University

Government’s failure to take a value chain perspective of the industry’s woes has resulted in macro-economic policy that is increasingly weakening producers’ bargaining power in the market. Supporting farm workers without simultaneously supporting producers will be an exercise in futility. It is necessary to strengthen the bargaining power of both producers and workers to ensure that profit is distributed more equitably along the value chain. If retailers are concerned about sustainable value chains, also they have to engage with this problematic. A positive spin-off of the De Doorns strike has been the realisation among key industry players in both the producer and worker camps that their fortunes are intertwined. Their willingness to engage each other presents a key opportunity. Government has to become part of this social dialogue and reshape the macro-economic environment to enable both producers and workers to move forward.

Source: The report Farm Workers’ Living and Working Conditions in South Africa: key trends,emergent issues, and underlying and structural problems (see the “Websites & publications” heading)

Staff training

By submitting a workplace skills plan (WSP), employers can claim as much as 70% of their skills levy back. Several AgriSETA-accredited trainers are happy to do the paper work for you. Examples of course possibilities from, say, trainers at the Premier Pig Producers include:

  • Drive a tractor (5 days)
  • Forklift operator (5 days)
  • Pig production/Animal care (5 days)
  • Occupational health and safety (2 days)
  • Health and safety representatives (2 days)
  • First aid level I and II (2,5 days)
  • Basic supervising skills (2,5 days)
  • Basic fire fighting (2,5 days)
  • HIV/Aids awareness (2 days)
  • 6M simulation (2,5 days)

Apprenticeships and learnerships offer you, the employer, certain tax breaks – and a labour force which is more skilled. Find information at www.agriseta.co.za. In accordance with laid-down rules, AgriSETA will also fund certain staff training.

 

Training

  • Agriskills Transfer Tel: 012 460 9585 www.agriskills.net Training in many areas of agriculture including health and safety
  • Buhle Farmers Academy Tel: 087 803 0563 www.buhle.org.za
  • COIDAtrain Tel: 012 333 7880 www.coidatrain.co.za Training for businesses in CIODA (Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act No. 130 of 1993)
  • NOSA Agricultural Services Tel: 087 286 9298 www.nosaagri.co.za The NOSA AGRI FARM BUDGETS MODULE covers labour planning amongst the aspects of managing a farm business.
  • SA Emergency Care Tel: 011 608 0907 /72 www.saemergencycare.co.za First Aid, Fire and Occupational Health and Safety training courses
  • Skills for Africa Tel: 012 377 3248 www.skillsafrica.co.za

Find a complete list of AgriSETA-accredited trainers at www.agriseta.co.za.

Farm Worker Housing

Historically, housing for farm workers has been an integral part of many farming operations in South Africa, farmers providing on-farm housing for their workers. This housing, ranging from mud huts to conventional brick houses, has been part of the terms of the employment contract. Although farmers are increasingly housing workers off-farm, it is not unusual to find a core element still housed on the farm.

 

Application for financial assistance for electrification of worker houses

This is for Eskom customers extending an existing supply point, or making a new supply point to supply electricity to worker house. Eskom will assist financially by paying an incentive towards the costs of electrification for each worker house electrified. Find details of Eskom branches in the Energy chapter, or visit www.eskom.co.za. See also the Department of Energy Policy Guidelines for the Electrification of Farm Dweller Houses document.

 

Agricultural Villages (Agri Villages)

The development of agri-villages is a partnership between the farmer, the farm worker and the state. It has been in Agri SA’s proposals regarding permanent off-farm housing and economic opportunities for farm workers. The economic, financial and political context of the agricultural sector will determine what government and farmers are able to invest in the development of agri-villages. An agri-village is considered a private settlement of restricted size, established and managed by a legal institution situated within and/or near an agricultural area and where residence is restricted to bona fide farm workers and their dependants on the farms involved in the development. Under these arrangements, security of tenure does not include right of ownership, but can include trust, communal property association or sectional title.

 

Housing subsidies

The institutional subsidy under the Department of Housing can help to raise the standard of farm worker housing. Find details of housing subsidies on the Department of Human Settlements’ website www.dhs.gov.za. Municipalities can also offer assistance. Find the Western Cape Provincial Government’s “Municipal Guideline for responding to farm residents housing needs in the Western Cape” on its website.

There are tax deductions for farmworker housing. Find out more from your bookkeeper.

 

Deducting housing from a farm worker’s salary

Legally this can be done when the following requirements are met (and not before):

  1. The worker must be at least 18 years old
  2. Water, electricity and other services are not also deducted
  3. The amount deducted is not more than the cost to the employer

In addition:

  1. The house has a roof that is durable and waterproof;
  2. The house has glass windows that can be opened;
  3. Electricity is available inside the house if the infrastructure exists on the farm;
  4. Safe water is available inside the house or in close proximity, which is not more than 100m, from the house;
  5. A flush toilet or pit latrine is available in, or in close proximity, to the house; and
  6. The house is not less than 30 square meters in size.

Find the Basic Guide to Deductions (Farm Workers) on www.labour.gov.za.

Labour-related legal legislation

See the separate “Legal aid and legislation” chapter

The conditions of employment and minimum wages for farm workers in South Africa are regulated by the Sectoral Determination No 13: Farm Worker Sector. It stipulates that:

  • Farm workers should not work more than 45 hours per week and not more than 15 hours overtime per week.
  • Farm workers are entitled to have three weeks paid annual leave, one day’s paid sick leave for every 26 days worked, three days responsibility leave per annum and four months maternity leave.
  • A farmer may deduct an amount not exceeding 10% of a farm worker’s wage for a house supplied to the farm worker and may not deduct for the grazing of a farm worker’s livestock.
  • Farmers are required to give farm workers pay slips and written particulars of employment.

Applicable from March 2018:

 

The minimum wage for farmworkers is R3 169,19 per month (from R3 001.13 in 2017/18), a weekly minimum wage of R731,41 (R692.62 in 2017/18), a daily rate of R146,28 (R138.52 in 2017/18) and an hourly rate of R16.25 (R15.39 in 2017/18).

 

The National Minimum Wage will apply from the 1 May 2018. Initially, the agriculture sector will pay 90% of this rate (equates to R18 per hour). From 1 May 2019, agriculture will catch up to the R20 per hour rate. Farmers who cannot afford the increase should apply for a section 50 variation.

 

Find updates, information and useful documents at www.labour.gov.za.

Find out about the Employment Tax Incentive offered by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for hiring young people. The contact centre number is 0800 00 7277.

National strategy and government contact

Agriculture is one of the sectors which government is looking to in its quest to create jobs (find the Agriculture heading in the “Job creation” chapter.

  • Department of Labour www.labour.gov.za (several documents, necessary forms and useful guides are available on the website)
  • Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries www.daff.gov.za

Role players

 

Associations

Details of employer organisations and labour unions can be found in the “Job creation” chapter. See also the “Organised agriculture” and “Legal aid and legislation” chapters.

  • National Economic Development & Labour Council (NEDLAC) Tel: 011 328 4200 www.nedlac.org.za
  • Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) www.siza.co.za  SISA is “a commitment to continually improve labour conditions on all farms in a practical and comprehensive manner”

 

Labour-related equipment and software

 

Legal services

See the legal aid chapter

Websites and publications

Find Wandile Sihlobo’s “Brief Reflections on SA’s agricultural labour market in the context of changing farm structures” presented at the Agbiz information day (2018, November 1) at https://agbiz.co.za/uploads/AgbizNews18/Agbiz%20Info%20Day_Wandile%20Sihlobo_01%20November%20%202018.pdf

Read about the many projects in which farm workers have been included in Agri SA-affiliated farm/company structures at www.agrisa.co.za/sustainable-growth/?lang=za

The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline 2018-2027  looks at the cost implication of the new national minimum wage on potato producers. Find the document at www.bfap.co.za.

The International Labour Organisation released a report on the living and working conditions of farm workers in South Africa in 2015. Find Farm Workers’ Living and Working Conditions in South Africa: key trends, emergent issues, and underlying and structural problems at several places on the Internet including www.ilo.org and www.idll.uct.ac.za. The purpose of the research is “to make available an up to date status of the working and living conditions of farm workers and to suggest areas and ways and means of managing the future landscape of agriculture in South Africa.”

The Best practice reference manual for wool sheep farming in South Africa, brought out by the National Wool Growers Association (NWGA) includes notes on “Basic conditions of employment”, “Occupational health and safety”, “Skills development” under the “Social Responsibility” section. Find the document on www.nwga.co.za or contact 041 365 5030.

Among the many documents of interest on the Department of Labour website are Basic Guide to Pay Slips (Farm Workers), Basic Guide to Deductions (Farm Workers), Basic Guide to Overtime (Farm Workers), Basic Guide to Working Hours (Farm Workers), Basic Guide to Working on Sundays (Farm Workers), and Basic Guide to Public Holidays (Farm Workers).

A number of very useful documents can be found on the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) website, www.siza.co.za. They include the SIZA Transport Guide, Accommodation Guide, Housing Guide, Farm Access Protocol etc.

Finance and Farmers ISBN 0-620-11949-7, available from Standard Bank.

If you produce for export, you will need to be familiar with the GlobalG.A.P. Risk-Assessment on Social Practices (GRASP) checklist. These involve the conditions of labour on the farm. Find these at www.globalgap.org.

Find the Human Rights Watch 2011 report “Ripe with Abuse: Human Rights Conditions in South Africa’s Fruit and Wine Industries” at www.hrw.org and www.agbiz.co.za.

Statistics can be found at www.daff.gov.za, website of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). Look under “Resource Centre”. Included are:

  • Number of farm employees and domestic servants on farms
  • Employment in agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing

International Labour Research and Information Group www.ilrig.org

Read about the movie Food Chains at www.foodchainsfilm.com. It looks at labour on farms in the USA.

Going for broke: The fate of farm workers in arid South Africa offers a comprehensive overview on the fate of farm workers. It goes back to the early Cape history of the master-servant relationship to a discussion of the professionalisation of farm workers, which has gained momentum over some time. The book is published by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Find it at www.hsrcpress.ac.za.

Download “Farm Evictions and their Impact on Local Municipalities. Policy Brief 10” by the Financial and Fiscal Commission in 2017 at www.ffc.co.za/2-uncategorised/156-2016-policy-brief-10-farm-evictions-and-their-impact-on-local-municipalities.

 

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