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incentives designed to encourage owners to invest in improved living conditions and social infrastructure on farms were withdrawn without effective alternatives being introduced.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

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