STATE'S ROLE IN WESTERN CAPE LABOUR UNREST MUST BE EXPLAINED
"In the public interest Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson should provide detailed elucidation on the financial support that her department has given to the Black Association of the Wine and Spirits Industry (Bawsi) during the past financial year and the extent to which such assistance had enabled Bawsi and its trade union offshoot Bawusa to play a leading role in organising the labour unrest," says Agri SA president Johannes Möller (see Cape Times report).
The unprotected strike and unlawful public gatherings culminated in disruptive behaviour and damage to property which harmed agriculture and seriously tarnished South Africa's image. Despite the discussions facilitated by the Minister to resolve the deadlock relating to wage demands, the state assistance to Bawsi, as reported in Parliament recently and Minister Joemat-
Pettersson's controversial statements on 13 November 2012 during a mass rally by strikers in the Hex River Valley, hints at biased political involvement.
"Commercial agriculture must contend with enormous challenges to maintain its competitiveness and profitability within a global market environment. Moreover, farmers have to make investment decisions amid uncertainty about land policy and an activist labour environment. While social justice remains a challenge which all role-players should help to address, it cannot be denied that the labour unrest and those who contributed to it have damaged confidence, which in turn has irrevocably changed the future structure and job-creating capacity of the industry," according to Möller.
According to Möller, a more comprehensive and independent inquiry into the whole matter would serve as a first step towards restoring confidence. Agriculture also requires government's assurance that state resources had played no role and will not play any role in the organising or incidence of labour unrest. Support is also required to restore agriculture's profitability and competitiveness amid higher labour costs - a matter which Agri SA, in conjunction with other agricultural organisations, has raised as a matter of urgency with government.
Statement issued by Mr Johannes Möller, President Agri SA, April 3 2013
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