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The average remuneration of both full-time farm employees and seasonal workers remains untenable. Quoted averages mask considerable inequality in wages between men and women and regional biases. The increase in the use of labour-brokers, outsourcing, and seasonal workers highlight direct and indirect matters of concern to the industry. While this helps to control costs, it has serious implications for farm worker livelihoods, and the basic conditions of employment do not always apply in such cases. The advent of democracy brought farm workers substantial new legal rights with which to defend their interests, including the right to strike, better access to mediation services, minimum wages and a range of regulations governing working conditions.
New tenure laws also provide more security of occupation. However, there is a great deal of unevenness in labour relations, and the conditions of many wine farm workers remain exceedingly poor. Furthermore, the much needed development and functioning or organised labour most definitely needs to be supported so as to ensure a stronger civil society and a more rigorous democracy.
These issues plus dedicated research in determining the food basket of farm workers to inform a living wage benchmark, will inform related research and where needed collaborative campaigning with the intent of social, economic and environmental upliftment and development.
Clearly becoming more integral to issues of worker rights is the shared global parameters created through fair ethical trade. The wine industry enjoys a well structured and operational entity such as WIETA, whose success has led to its broadening of scope to encompass all sectors of agriculture now called the Wine Agricultural Ethical Trade Association trading as “WIETA”. Managing the emergence of fair trade wines as an ethical alternative for producers and retailers seeking more direct commercial benefit, WIETA provides for the sound auditing and accreditation processes that are well respected.
LEAD will have 6 key components as building blokes to achieving Union development and improved farm worker relations and rights.
• The project’s primary focus for the immediate period will be to provide direct support to the existing Labour Unions in the wine industry;
• The Unions will raise membership levels andinforming labour rights, and
• Undertake to do primary action research in identifying issues that affectlabour and their rights;
• Followed by training actions in partnership with entities such asDitsela, which will be provided to their representatives.
• In partnership withWIETA, develop case studies on all current ethical trade compliant entities (with a focus on Fairtrade) to ascertain
benefits and restraints.
• Through collaboration with Women on Farms (WOF) the provision of project coordination & support to the trade unions operating within the Agricultural sector will be provided. Afulltime coordinator has been appointed for this specific purpose. Their drive will be to support the above 5 initiatives as well as to support & drive specific campaigns around housing, ESTA, labour brokers etc.
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