SABC News - Minimum wage wont salvage farming jobs:Monday 8 February 2016

Minimum wage won't salvage farming jobs

Monday 8 February 2016 21:42

Sello Tatai

Prevailing drought conditiosn have had a detrimental effect on farming and employment in the hardest hit provinces such as the North West. (SABC)

Government’s new upward adjusted minimum wages for the farming and forestry sectors will not assist in salvaging jobs in drought stricken areas in the country. This is the view held by famers unions in the North West which is one the hardest hit provinces.

Unions maintain that the minimum wage increment by government from R2606.78 to R2778.83 is unaffordable. This is as a result of low productivity and decreasing profit margins.

For farmer Aobakwe Pholoholo who lost 15 head of cattle as a result of the drought, and 52 000 units of cabbage due insufficient rain, making ends meet continues to be an uphill battle. “The wage challenges we face include not getting money on time, and even that money that we get is not enough for us to survive on. You find that it is about R1 100 when it is a lot and the least is about
R1 000.”

According to Maikano Maselwanyane, Provincial Secretary of the National Emergent Red Meat Producers' Organisation (NERPO), emerging farmers do not have enough income in their farms as some are in communal land. "Those people are not making enough income. So it is not easy for us to pay that minimum wage. I mean even our workers - they take whatever we offer because they are also stranded, they also need income for their families."

Agri-North West says both commercial and emerging farmers are drowning in debt and abiding by government's policy might prove
to be difficult. “We are in trouble in the sense that food to food production is low, there are not many jobs available, as a matter of fact there may be some shrinkage in jobs. We must be realistic about that. We must also understand that there will be no new employment. This will have a carryover effect for next year,” says Pierre Vercuil of Agri-North West.

Government has urged farmers in affected areas to apply for ministerial variations in terms of Section 50 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which makes provision for the Minister to replace or exclude any basic condition of employment provided for in the Act.

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