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