JOHANNESBURG Feb 6 South African farmers have
started laying off labourers just two days after the government
raised the minimum wage for the sector by 50 percent in response
to a wave of violent farm strikes, an industry official said on
The government hiked the base wage to 105 rand ($11.86) a
day on Monday but farm owners, most of whom are from the white
minority, said they could not afford to pay their mostly black
workers the increase and lay-offs would ensue.
"Some of our farmers have already given notice to some of
their workers because if they don't it now, they will have to
pay the remuneration according to the new wages, meaning an
extra cost," Louis Meintjes, president of commercial farmers
group Tau SA, told Reuters.
"We can already talk of thousands of workers given notices
that they will be let go."
The new minimum wage comes into effect on March 1.
The job losses could spark a repeat of the violence in which
police had to use rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse
protesting farm workers blocking highways and torching vineyards
and warehouses in the agricultural belt east of Cape Town.
Trade union federation COSATU said the job losses were
expected but blamed them on commercial greed.
"This is just the backlash we expect from the reactionary
farmers," regional COSATU leader Tony Ehrenreich said. "That is
why we are saying government must pay them out and take the land
to give it to farmers that are serious about farming."
The Food and Allied Workers Union said it was on the lookout
for any unfair dismissals but had not received any notice of
layoffs from its members.
Most farm workers in Africa's biggest economy do not belong
to unions, making it difficult to know the full extent of the
The Western Cape strike came at the end of a wave of labour
unrest that began in South Africa's platinum mines in August and
swept through the trucking and agriculture sectors, hitting
growth and undermining the country's investment reputation.
($1 = 8.8555 South African rand)
(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda; Editing by Ed Cropley)