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South Africa farm strike called off


12:40, January 23, 2013

CAPE TOWN, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on Tuesday called off a strike by farmworkers in the Western Cape Province, but said that doesn't mean the struggle for decent wages has come to an end.

"We may be encouraging workers to go back to work now, but the struggle in Agriculture will intensify for decent wages, good conditions on farms and land reform. It will be done with the guidance," COSATU said in a statement.

The strike was suspended last week to give Agri-SA, an association of farmers, a chance to consider the terms for ending exploitation on farms, as put forward by striking workers. But Agri-SA said it was not interested in talking to the workers' on their demands.

"This is war talk as far as COSATU is concerned and is responsible for the deepening tensions in Agriculture," the union federation said.

"Agri-SA does not want to engage on the bigger issues that undoes the apartheid legacy of the 1913 Land Act. They must, however, realize that they will not be able to cling to the apartheid theft of the land - they have to bring workers into ownership as meaningful partners, on the farms."

Thousands of farmworkers laid down tools on Jan. 9 in a followup of widespread protests that broke out last year to demand a daily minimum wage of 150 rands (about 17 U. S. dollars) instead of the current 69 rands (about 8 dollars). But Agri-SA said it is beyond most farmers' ability to meet the demand which could have drive many farmers out of business. While calling off the strike, COSATU said, "We understand that even though the anger of workers makes them want to continue the strike, we have to consider the impact on children when there is no food in the house. We are also mindful of the fact that these industries belong to the people of South Africa, and while we want to ruin bad farmers, we don`t want to ruin our Industries."

COSATU encourages unions to continue to go and negotiate farm by farm, to ensure that the workers get a fair slice of what they produce through their hard work.

The federation vowed to continue its fight against the apartheid slave conditions on the farms and in communities across the country.

"We will change this sector forever and will see that decent conditions and partnerships are established, just like in any other sector of the economy - through negotiations," COSATU said.

Also on Tuesday, a research institute said raising the minimum wage of farmworkers in the Western Cape will reduce employment. "Raising the minimum wage will not ease the problem and would rather tend to further diminish employment. "Farmers will already have to put aside additional funds for increased security and insurance costs," said Piet le Roux, senior researcher at Solidarity Research Institute (SRI).

Farmworkers and employers shared common interests - safeguarding of the infrastructure and production processes from which both parties earned their daily bread, he said.

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