The Western Cape Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Gerrit van Rensburg, responded positively to the announcement of the new minimum wage for workers in the agricultural sector. “We are thankful that the prescribed process has been completed, and the Minister of Labour announced the new minimum wage for agricultural workers”.
Van Rensburg however stressed that the violence and unlawful behaviour experienced in the agricultural sector during the past three months is something the sector can ill afford. “May we never see such destructive behaviour again during a wage negation process”.
Van Rensburg said the new wage, set at R105.00, is now law and all producers must abide by it. The Minister added his concern for farms, especially new and smaller operations, which will struggle to absorb the additional cost. “I do not want to see job losses as a result of the higher wage determination”.
Van Rensburg asked the National Government to step in with incentive programmes, such as the youth wage subsidy, to assist the agricultural sector in absorbing the higher labour cost. “Agriculture’s ability to create new job opportunities must be protected”, said Minister Van Rensburg.
Van Rensburg said his department is focussing its research efforts to find ways in which to be more productive. “We are searching for ways to produce more crops with fewer inputs. We need to improve agricultural profitability in order to be able to pay higher wages”.
Van Rensburg said his department is also still the only South African Department of Agriculture, provincially and nationally, which has a dedicated Farm Worker Development Programme. This programme focuses on the well-being and betterment of farm worker conditions. “We will continue to provide training and support services to farm workers. This also includes providing them with information regarding their rights and responsibilities in terms of our labour legislation”.