Cape Argus

Workers protest as ‘farm shuns talks’


THE situation in Grabouw remains tense after it was alleged that Oak Valley Wine Estate rejected negotiatio­ns around worker’s demands.

Workers demonstrat­ed yesterday with placards, burning tyres and closed the N2 in both directions between Sir Lowry’s Pass and Botrivier, demanding a R250 minimum daily wage, single quarter accommodat­ion to be converted into family units, and all seasonal workers to be made permanent, and an end to labour broking.

One of the workers said they were earning R160 per day. “We have families that we need to look after.”

Oak Valley Wine Estate’s managing director Christophe­r Rawbone-Viljoen said after months of negotiatio­ns with the Commercial Stevedorin­g Agricultur­al & Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU), no agreement could be reached so far, despite numerous attempts for a fair, equitable outcome. During this period, CSAAWU engaged in five illegal protests, he said.

“Oak Valley employs 233 permanent wage earners with CSAAWU representi­ng about 28% of employees in the bargaining unit.”

The average wage for permanent employees from January 1 to March 31, was R273 a day, including picking bonuses, he said. “The average wage for seasonal employees between January 1 to March 31 was R234 per day, including picking bonuses.”

Rawbone-Viljoen said in October last year, Oak Valley and CSAAWU agreed who would be eligible to reside in the seasonal accommodat­ion. “Both parties agreed to a list of workers, permanent and seasonal, after two illegal protests by CSAAWU following a decision to phase out seasonal accommodat­ion. A number of workers currently staying in the seasonal accommodat­ion are not on this list. The original list has 39 names. There are 59 workers currently staying there.”

Rawbone-Viljoen said they currently use a labour broker, who complies with all legislatio­n regarding seasonal contract work. “This is common practice in the industry. Once these workers have completed the apple harvest many move on to the citrus harvest for continued employment.”

Permanent workers’ average wage was R273 a day, including bonuses Christophe­r Rawbone-Viljoen OAK VALLEY WINE ESTATE

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