Monday, 18 September 2017

Promoting Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining and the link with Social Codes

The Social Dialogue Platform for Decent Work in Agriculture is organising a consultation with trade unions and farm worker/labour organisations on the 10 October in 2017. We would like to invite you to join us and input into this important discussion on freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in the agriculture sector.
The Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group (LEP), based at the University of Cape Town, recently completed a research project to assess how private sector social codes can lift farm workers’ living and working conditions above the legal minimum. The research also assessed unions awareness of these codes and understanding of the potential leveraging opportunities to engage with codes.
The programme for the consultation discussion will aim to:
  • Give feedback on the research and explore how unions leverage social codes to get better working conditions.
  • Identify how these codes align with your key priority areas and how unions can engage in audits and their verification.
  • Discuss whether changes to the codes; verification methods; complaints procedures need to be changed/updated.
  • Reviewing opportunities for practical cooperation and engagement among worker organisations on the topic of codes.

The draft programme for the meeting can be found below.

Promoting Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining and the link with Social Codes
Date: 10th October
Venue: Kramer Building, UCT Middle Campus
Agenda: Subject to change

Registration and coffee

Welcome, introductions and overview of the session
Dr Rick de Satge and Claud Woodman
Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group (LEP) research presentation & Q&A
Margareet Visser
Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining:

  • What scope do codes offer to bring these rights to life? 
  • Are existing standards sufficient?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the codes?
  • Are you able to use the standards to gain access to farms; to organise workers and to negotiate with farmers?
Break away sessions to be facilitated

Plenary Sessions to report back discussions from breakaways
Claud Woodman
Breakaway session 2: Next steps
  • What steps need to be taken to improve worker knowledge of the codes?
  • What can be done to improve application of the codes to improve worker living and working conditions?
  • What opportunities are there to negotiate a review of the codes to strengthen worker rights and benefits?
  • What steps should be taken to address weaknesses in the content and enforcement code? 
  • Are broader structures in the agric sector sufficient to enable FoA and CB? 
  • Can we do more as a collective to improve deleveraging of the codes?
Rick de Satge
Plenary session: feedback from breakaway discussion
Claud Woodman

South Africa's land reform programme: Undermining livelihoods of farm workers?

In a recent article researchers Ruth Hall (PLAAS) and Thembela Kepe (University of Toronto) highlights how the current model of land reform involving state purchase of land  through the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy has had detrimental consequences for farm workers. In fact it appears that farm workers have largely been ignored by the land reform programme since its inception. Hall and Kepe (2017: 6-7) write that:
The proactive purchase model means that, from the moment of transfer, when farms become state property, all commercial operations cease, with profound impacts on farm workers – who are usually also resident on farm. When government buys farms, farm workers lose their jobs and often their only sources of cash income. In contrast, the (usually white) farm owners who sell to the state are paid out in full and can create alternative livelihoods elsewhere. Farm workers – without their own capital to invest, and without leases or any recognised rights to the land – are therefore isolated from development opportunities. Some former farm workers who continue to live on the farms expressed feelings of deep insecurity, now that they are not employees of private farmers, but undocumented occupiers of state-owned land.
They argue that:
Special consideration may be needed to treat farm dwellers differently from other beneficiaries, especially to avoid the pattern of farm workers losing their jobs as a result of state acquisition.
Their research in the Eastern Cape also highlights cases where government has leased the land directly to the strategic partner rather than the "beneficiaries" themselves.

In the two cases we came across, the agribusiness company itself started the project and, having acquired farms from the state, signed up the farm workers as ‘beneficiaries’ to be registered in the official database... Strategic partners and mentors garner tangible benefits: mentors receive monthly cash payments from the state for playing this role, while strategic partners hold shares in joint ventures while benefiting from state subsidies and access to state land ... In one case, the ‘strategic partner’ was an agribusiness which ran the PLAS farm as its own operation, directly siphoning the produce to its processing facility, without payment to the ‘beneficiaries’, whom it treated as employees (and paid below minimum wage) on the farm the state claimed to have bought for them. 
Evidence presented by Hall and Kepe (2017: 5) suggests that the DRDLR has become involved informal and illegal evictions on properties acquired for land reform and that there is a widespread failure to secure the tenire rights of people accessing land through the land redistribution programme.

In one case, a family was granted permission to occupy a state farm (without a lease), and asked by the DRDLR to deliver an informal eviction notice to those already occupying it. This is possibly the opposite of the vision of secure long-term rights for black South Africans which was at the core of land reform as envisaged in the 1990s; it was to end the situation of precarious tenure that colonial and apartheid governments entrenched. Situations in which people either have no documented rights, or have caretakerships or expired leases produce high degrees of uncertainty, leading people to avoid investment in land use, production or maintenance of infrastructure. This means that ‘beneficiaries’ have little or no tenure security. 

The Finance and Fiscal Commission conducted a study (2016) to investigate the macroeconomic impacts of the land reform programme. This found that “to date, overall, land reform has had a net negative effect on job creation and productivity of farms, primarily as a result of land no longer being used for crop production. The study illustrates “a drastic decrease in production since land was transferred ... most farms show little or no agricultural activity, with on-farm beneficiaries earning little or no income, and the bulk of working beneficiaries being employed on surrounding commercial farms”.

These trends highlight the need for an in-depth research project on the impacts of land reform on farm workers and fresh thinking about farm worker rights and entitlements within the land reform programme.

Financial and Fiscal Commission, Submission for the Division of Revenue 2017/18, Ch. 4, ‘National Land Reform Program­me and Rural Development’, p68.
Finance and Fiscal Commission 2016 National Land Reform Programme and Rural Development. Policy brief No 3.
Hall, R., & Kepe, T. (2017). Elite capture and state neglect: new evidence on South Africa’s land reform. Review of African Political Economy, 44(151)

Friday, 1 September 2017

South African trade union research study: A research opportunity

ETI is seeking a consultant/organisation to conduct an interesting piece of research on South African trade unions in the agriculture sector. The objective of this research is to understand what factors can contribute towards the success of freedom of association, collective bargaining and effective grievance handling. The aim of this understanding is to encourage the wider adoption of identified good practices, across the industry, and demonstrate the business benefits.
You can access the TOR here

Estimating the wage and employment effects of the 52% increase in the minimum wage in 2013

A new paper by Vimal Ranchhod and Ihsaan Bassier associated with the Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth is based at SALDRU at the University of Cape Town reviews the effects of the minimum wage increase on the income and employment of farm workers.
The paper finds that  find that the sectoral determination had a substantial effect on the earnings of farmworkers who remained employed after the law came into effect, but that there was also a small and gradual decrease in agricultural employment. Evidence suggests "an increase in mean income per month of 17.9% about a year after the law came into effect. However this coincided with a mean decrease in adult employment by this industry of about 8.2% over the same time period". The paper notes however that attributing causality for the decrease in employment is statististically challenging.

The paper observes that
In South Africa, agriculture has historically accounted for a substantial amount of employment of relatively low skilled workers. This continues to be the case, but over the past three decades agriculture has become increasingly commercialized and mechanized, while agricultural output is increasingly being sold in highly competitive global markets. At least to some extent, these factors may explain why the long run trend in agricultural employment has been negative. An interesting and difficult policy question arises as to how a government might protect workers’ well-being in such an environment, where agricultural workers have amongst the lowest mean wages in the economy. In particular, is it possible to maintain both wages and employment in agriculture as the sector evolves in response to global pressures?
You can access the paper here

Ranchhod, V. and I. Bassier (2017). Estimating the wage and employment effects of a large increase in South Africa’s agricultural minimum wage, REDI3x3.