Farm worker strike may halt wine production

Farm workers Source: Google Images

Local wine exports to Europe may grind to a halt if the demands of farm workers are not met. Farm workers across the Western Cape made their way to the offices of the Norwegian/Swedish Consulate over the weekend to plea for more humane work conditions.

As reported by IOL, the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agriculture and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) said it continues to inform employers of their labour workers’ poor working conditions in producing some of the country’s best wines.

“But today we are reminding Norway and Sweden of the enormous power and influence they have,” Karel Swart, one of the union’s national organisers, said. “If we don’t get a favourable response within 10 days, we will have no choice but to call for a consumer boycott of wines and other agricultural products.”

If exports to Norway, Sweden and Finland halt, the South African wine industry and subsequently, the economy, will be hit hard.

A memorandum was handed over to the consulates, stating that international wine companies Systembolaget, Vinmonopolet and Alko would no longer benefit from the “slave” work conditions farm workers in South Africa are subjected to.

CSAAWU has also appealed to European and local consumers alike to be ethical and conscious when purchasing and consuming wine.

The union demanded a minimum wage of R250 per day, as well as a monthly salary of R8 500 to be instated in the next three years. It also demanded the banning of piece work, gender parity for farm labourers, and for wine farm owners to comply with healthy and safety standards.

“Piece work was seen as another form of exploitation as the employer imposed the kind of wages to be paid and in desperation, workers would accept even if the wages were lower than the R18 an hour prescribed for minimum wage,” CSAAWU’s memorandum read.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA has shown support for CSAAWU, and called on the international wine companies to boycott SA farming products.