Tuesday 12 February 2019

Phuhlisani NPC launches new website on land issues

Knowledgebase.land has been up and running for the last couple of months.
KB.L enables you to stay abreast of land related news and to access the latest research. Our research teams collect and organise news and research outputs by content and theme. We make it easy to find specific information and then to discover a wide range of related content.

KB.L seeks to bring to life all aspects of the ‘land issue’, recognising that land is a deeply important aspect of our collective history, and an emotive issue which influences the shaping of our political landscape.
KB.L seeks to develop a comprehensive sense of this history, heritage and memory through a combination of news, commissioned articles, links to research and a repository of documentary photographs providing multiple perspectives on rural and urban land.
KB.L exists to deepen the conversation about the urban and rural land issues and to advance critical analysis of the policy and practice of land reform in South Africa. It aims to build an expanding national knowledge base that illuminates different narratives about land and land reform implementation to help us better understand our past, reflect on our sense of nationhood and consider options for our future.

The website includes a dedicated focus on farm workers.

Thursday 7 February 2019

Submission on farm worker housing

The submission developed as parted of the Decent Work in Agriculture Dialogue drew on research commissioned by the Laborie Inititiave. Delegates attending the final dialogue indicated their support for the content of the submission, This was further discussed by the Laborie Initiative whose members undertook to sign and make an unsolicted submission to relevant departments and parliamentary portolio committess dealing with land and housing.
The final submission is available here

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Reflecting on the DWIA journey: Nov 2016 - April 2018.

The Social Dialogue Platform for Decent Work in Agriculture (DWIA) recently held a well attended workshop in Paarl on the 12th and 13th of April. This was the seventh workshop in a series hosted by the platform which is convened by the Ethical Trading Initiative (UK), the Labour and Enterprise Research Unit at UCT and Phuhlisani NPC.

The latest workshop marks the close out of this phase of work to promote social dialogue as part of the decent work agenda. To date the programme has been funded by the Commonwealth Foundation. ETI and its partners are now looking for opportunities to take this important work forward.
Much of the journey to date has been recorded on the 4dialogue blog which has provided reports and resources linked to each of the seven workshops.

The initial workshop was held on 3 November 2016. This enabled a wide range of people involved in social dialogue initiatives to come together to share information and to explore the need for a platform to try and link, explore issues in common  and to add value to the various individual initiatives. Participants at this workshop proposed a number of ways in which social dialogue could be deepened in the fruit and wine sectors in the Western Cape. A range of shared issues and priorities were identified which included farmworker housing, access to services and tenure security as well as freedom of association and collective bargaining. The subsequent workshops in 2017 and early 2018 have focused on these two themes.

The second workshop in the series aimed to convene a reference groupmade up of individuals and organisations which would provide guidance and oversight of the platform activities. This initiative was not greatly successful, primarily as many individuals committing time to the process were already heavily committed. So the platform activities developed more organically and informally, guided by regular interactions with different groupings – standards bodies, producer associations, trade unions, NGOs and government officials.

The third workshop began to engage with the substantive issues associated with farmworker housing. The workshop drew on research undertaken by Phuhlisani NPC in partnership with the Cape Winelands District Municipality and the Laborie initiative. It also explored national developments with regard to the Phakisa programme which was developing a focus on a farmworker housing and land ownership programme.

It was at this workshop that it was agreed that there was a need for a document to be developed which could form the basis of a joint policy submission to government, given the findings of the research that currently there was no coherent policy on farmworker housing and its development on and off farms. Phuhlisani NPC was tasked with incorporating analysis and proposals emanating from the research and the workshop sessions to prepare a draft submission for further discussion and potential endorsement by the different stakeholders represented on the platform.

Workshops 4-6 focused on an area where little progress has been made – that of the promotion of freedom of association and the advancement of collective bargaining in the agricultural sector. Unlike the housing issue, representatives of producer bodies, employers, trade unions and NGOs started far apart from each other on this difficult and complex issue. In order to hear all the voices and to enable individuals to speak freely the DWIA platform organised workshops specifically for different stakeholder groupings.

Workshops with unions and NGOs focused extensively on how unions could overcome obtacles in order to secure access to workplaces on farms to organise workers. Unionists and NGO representatives at these workshops highlighted a range of attitudes and behaviours of employers and HR practitioners which they argued prevented them from accessing farms and engaging with workers. They highlighted widespread hostility to, and fear of union organisation by employers.

Workshops held with employers and producer associations highlighted the mixed range of responses to union activity in the agricultural sector. In some instances wortking relationships had been built with trade unions which had secured organising rights and some winecellars and fruit packhouses. However individual producers often articulated a reluctance to engage with unions – many of which were regarded as difficult to negotiate with due to their perceived militancy. Producers also cited trade union fragmentation in the sector and instances of competition between union bodies to capture the subscriptions of organised workers.  There was a widespread sense that many unions  failed to deliver tangible benefits to their membership. This prompted many employers to support the development of worker committees on farms.

In our seventh and final workshop in the series we brought all the parties together to reflect on the journey and identify practical interventions to address key issues. Participants discussed and provided in principle endorsement of a draft housing policy submission. Participants reviewed the findings of research conducted by LEP investigating good practice around freedom of Association and collective bargaining. They met together to identify practical steps which could be taken to advance freedom of Association and to enable the strengthening of worker organisation and voice on farms and workplaces within the fruit and wine value chains. A list of undertakings is available in the workshop record of discussion.

To ensure that this work remains publicy available we have now assembled a repository providing one-stop access to all the resources and presentations made throughout the workshop series. These include full records of discussion for each workshop. You can access the repository here and click on any card within the repository to view and download resources.

If you have participated in the process and want to comment on progress and make proposals to improve impact going forward please complete the short survey here.

ETI, LEP and Phuhlisani thanks everyone for their generous contributions to the process. Watch this space to hear how things will be taken forward.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Social dialogue: the state of play - Two day workshop 12- 13 April

The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), The Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group (LEP) from the University of Cape Town and Phuhlisani NPC are hosting a two-day workshop on 12th and 13th April 2018 at the Mount Roche Hotel in Paarl.

Workshop objectives

  • To bring together a wide range of actors to assess progress of social dialogue initiatives in advancing decent work in the Western Cape’s fruit and wine sectors
  • To discuss a joint draft policy submission on farm worker housing highlighting key problems and proposing practical solutions
  • To review the findings from research commissioned by ETI into Good Practices Advancing Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining in the agricultural sector
  • To discuss how Freedom of Association can be enhanced at farm level
  • To share perspectives on what’s working and what needs to change
  • To identify priorities to shape the decent work agenda going forward.

Event participants

This two-day workshop aims to bring together a wide range of actors including:
  • Agricultural associations, employers’ associations and farmers
  • Civil society organisations and NGOs
  • Trade unions
  • Government bodies
  • Academia
  • Retailers
  • Other leading practitioners and experts; both in South Africa and internationally.

Programme outline

 The key programme focus for the two days is summarized below.

Day 1: Thursday 12​th​ April 2018

Social Dialogue: The state of play
  • Overview and update on the Decent Work in Agriculture social dialogue platform, updates from a range of current initiatives in the Western Cape.
  • Social Dialogue for improved farmworker housing
  • Updates on the progress of the Phakisa farm worker housing and land ownership programme.
  • Review of a draft policy submission on farm worker housing, tenure security and access to services.

Day 2: Friday 13th April 2018

  • Lessons from good practice case studies: Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining
  • Presentation on the findings from a recent study on freedom of association on farms, cellars and pack houses.
  • Lessons learnt from the findings.
  • Sharing perspectives from workshops on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining held with civil society organizations, trade unions, employer and industry bodies
  • Where do we stand?
  • Where is the common ground?
  • What needs to change?
  • Evaluation of the Decent Work in Agriculture social dialogue platform to date
  • What has worked and what has not?
  • Should this platform be continued? 
  • If so, what are the next steps?
  • How can a future DWiA be better capacitated/enabled?
  • Who else should be included in DWiA?

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Fixing farm worker housing - a draft policy submission

The Social Platform  for Decent Work in Agriculture (DWIA) was established  to record, connect and amplify the impacts of social dialogue initiatives (SDI) within the fruit and wine value chains of the agricultural sector in the Western Cape.
Various SDIs have been set up with the broad aim of improving living and working conditions on farms and pack houses.
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) has partnered with the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Unit (LEP) at UCT and Phuhlisani NPC to facilitate linkages between diverse SDIs and explore issues of common interest between them.
Farm worker housing, access to services and tenure security have emerged as key focus areas. Certain SDIs, such as the Laborie Initiative have commissioned research on this topic.  DWIA workshops were also held during 2017 to discuss what could be done in this area.
It was agreed that organisations contributing to the DWIA initiative would contribute to the preparation of a policy brief and discuss a joint submission to government.

Why is there a new for policy review?

  • Farmworkers have been poorly served by housing policy:
  • The setting of standards for farm worker housing on farms remains fragmented and inadequate.
  • On-farm hostels for seasonal workers remain largely unregulated.
  • Responsibilities for oversight and compliance with existing standards remain unclear and poorly capacitated
  • In practice, farmworkers’ access to housing on farms remains conditional on their employment. Losing a job is often a prelude to eviction and homelessness.
  • The pattern of casualisation and externalisation of labour, which has come to characterise labour intensive sub sectors within the agricultural industry, is displacing workers off farm.
  • Many displaced workers have no alternative but to enter informal settlements in small rural towns where local municipalities are already struggling to address housing and service backlogs.
  • The overwhelming majority of farmworkers are not registered on the housing demand database which is required to be eligible for a housing subsidy.
  • Apartheid era subsidies and tax incentives designed to encourage owners to invest in improved living conditions and social infrastructure on farms were withdrawn without effective alternatives being introduced.
  • The Farm Residents Subsidy introduced as part of the National Housing Code has failed to attract a single subsidy application.
  • The status of  the proposed farm worker house and land ownership programme put forward under the Operation Phakisa initiative remains unclear.
  • There is currently no coherent national policy on farm worker housing.

Make your voices heard

You can view a four pager and comment on a longer policy submission. Access the folder here
This draft submission wiull be discussed at the DWiA workshop in Paarl on 12 and 13 April 2018

Monday 26 February 2018

Stategies to counter the impacts of the drought

Writing in the Conversation Peter Johnston - a climate scientist and researcher at UCT  who explores the potential impacts of the drought on agriculture in the Western Cape. He draws on studies of Australia's Millenium drought and its social and economic impacts, observing the key difference between the two countries - South Africa's reliance on thousands of seasonal workers:

Seasonal workers in South Africa usually settle in the production area, often in informal settlements. Their earnings result from work during the harvest period which stretches from between one month to three. In many cases the earning period must sustain them for the rest of the year. Whole families are dependent on this income and any job losses can have a severe impact
Johnstone notes that:
So far the damage to trees and vines in the Cape has been limited. While the horticulture industry will suffer economic losses, the industry will recover, if not immediately, then over a few seasons if water for irrigation is restored by next September. It is, however, too soon to say what the long term impact will be in terms of soil quality, farmer confidence and water allocations.
It is clear that we need strategies to better manage and allocate water. However the impact of the drought on employment and the social impacts on thousands of families dependent on seasonal work for their income needs closer attention.

Friday 23 February 2018

Wage increases in the agricultural sector: Views of organised agriculture and worker organisations

Wages are set to rise in the agricultural sector through phased increases:

  • As from 1 March 2018 the agricultural sector will pay 15.39 per hour following an 8% increase in the minimum wage announced by the Minister of Labour
  • From 1 May 2018 the national minimum wage of R20.00 per hour kicks in. However the agricultural sector has an initial special dispensation to pay R18/hour or 90% of the agreed minimum wage.
  • Farmers who provide evidence that they cannot afford the increase can apply for a Section 50 variation which if granted remains valid for a year.
What will this mean for different actors in the sector?

AgriSA's perspective was recently spelt out by the Head of Labour and Development  Jahni de Villiers in an article published in the Huffington Post. In January De Villiers argued that:

  • The agricultural sector has shed 109,000 jobs in 2017 and was 71,000 jobs down from the same quarter in 2016.
  • The final research findings National Minimum Wage Commission published in 2016 indicates that 200 000 jobs were lost as a consequence of the first implementation of a minimu wage through the sectoral determination.
  • Given the labour shedding response to the initial setting of minimum wages noted above, it is "a fair assumption" that further job lossses will follow a 17% increase in the minimum wage in 2018 and that layoffs or  will be aggravated by the severe drought in the Western Cape.
  • AgriSA points to the need for "community development, including farmworker housing and farmworker enterprise development, and entrepreneurial development" However at the same time it notes that in the Western Cape only 8.5% of farmworkers have finished school and less than 1% have any tertiary education. 

Union responses remain critical although detailed statements are hard to find. No press statements have been possted on the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) website since 28 July 2017. On their Facebook page FAWU reports that it has been campaigning for R5700/ month as a minimum wage and that "nobody can live on R20.00/ hour".

The Commercial, Stevedore, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) has a Twitter account which has been inactive since March 2015. The link to the organisation's website is dead. An article in Ground-Up reports CSAAWU's  response to the first phase wage increase:

“For CSAAWU the new recommendations from the Department are not only a slap in the face of farm workers, but an indication too that government has still not grasped the severity of the crisis of poverty facing rural workers. This new wage recommendation is a direct impoverishment of farm workers.”

CSAAWU is affiliated to the South African Federation of Trade Unions SAFTU which in December  2017 urged parliament to reject the National Minimum Wage Bill arguing that a minimum wage of 3500/month is pegged some R625 below the poverty line.

This rapid scan of responses show that representatives of the agricultural industry and worker organisations remain far apart. Organised agriculture has concerns about the afforability of wage increases particularly in a time of intense drought. Organised labour remains concerned about what constitutes a living wage which will lift workers out of poverty. The impact of wage increases on employment in the sector and the net impacts on poverty and vulnerability will need to be the focus of ongoing research.