Northern Cape needs urgent plan to mitigate farm worker job losses

Gerda Moolman, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Provincial Spokesperson on Agriculture

The Democratic Alliance in the Northern Cape condemns Cosatu’s baseless statements in which the union claims that looming job losses in the agricultural sector, as a result of the new minimum wage, are merely empty threats. Cosatu is once again ignoring the facts and underestimating the impact of their selfish intentions to grow union support at the expense of job creation.

The DA calls on the Premier to denounce Cosatu’s unfounded claims during her State of the Province address tomorrow, and instead pronounce her support of the farming sector by presenting a detailed plan to ensure the continued viability of the sector and to mitigate against job losses in the agricultural sector. Failure by the provincial government to do so, will jeopardize the livelihoods of countless Northern Cape families.

Agriculture is a key sector in the Northern Cape economy. Farming is also one of the few remaining sectors in South Africa able to absorb unskilled labour. However, the number of commercial farmers in South Africa had decreased from 120 000 in 1994 to 37 000 to date. And now, many jobs are at risk as a result of the new minimum wage settlements for the agriculture sector.

Commercial farms that remain viable without the subsidies accorded to their international competitors are a precious resource that we must sustain for food security. The Premier should prioritize a number of steps to mitigate the looming crisis, including:

* Introducing an incentive programme that will assist the agriculture sector to absorb higher labour costs.

* The introduction of a provincially orientated youth wage subsidy that would serve to reduce whatever job losses may occur in agriculture by lowering the cost of employment. This will, in turn, bring down the cost of permanent employment for young workers, while also ensuring that all workers are hired with full labour rights and paid at least the new minimum wage.

* Introducing initiatives that will improve the productivity of the sector so that farmers are able to pay higher wages.

* Improving training and support services for farm workers, through initiatives such as the Farm Worker Development Programme that has been successfully implemented in the Western Cape. The Farm Worker Development Programme of the Western Cape is the only one of its kind in South Africa. In the past financial year, 1294 farm workers were supported with training courses. Training was supported by a budget of R12 million.

The Premier needs to present these plans as a matter of urgency. It is time for our provincial government to show that they are serious about restoring stability to the sector and supporting all stakeholders to maintain their livelihood and contribute to the economy.

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