PRETORIA: South Africa raised the minimum wage for farm workers by up to 50 percent today in response to a wave of violent strikes, but farmers said the increase would only cause job losses and more unrest in the major fruit exporter.
Labour minister Mildred Oliphant said the new salary, which has jumped to 105 rand a day ($11.85) from as little as 69 rand, would come into effect on March 1 and would rise by inflation plus 1.5 percent in subsequent years.
The wage review follows clashes in fruit-growing regions of the Western Cape province in December and January between police and striking farm workers demanding their daily pay be more than doubled to 150 rand.
Farm owners, most of whom are from South Africa’s white minority, say they cannot afford to pay their mostly black workers more because of the rising costs of fuel and electricity, adding that higher wages may put jobs at risk.
Johannes Moller, president of industry group Agri SA the minimum wage has been pegged above the affordable level and this will have a serious negative social economic impact in the agriculture sector.