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New Cape strike declared 'unlawful'

Labour union ordered away from four farms operated by Le Roux Group, a major exporter of plums, citrus and grapes

New Cape strike declared 'unlawful'
Nosey Pieterse, Bawusa (Facebook)

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Strike action affecting one of South Africa's leading fruit exporters during the past week has been declared unlawful by a labour court in the country's Western Cape region.

According to the judgment, members of the Building and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa) and the Broodkraal Workers Forum, as well as Bawasu general secretary and strike leader Nosey Pieterse, are not permitted to engage in any further unprotected action and cannot intimidate others to strike either.

Gerrit de Beer, general manager of Le Roux Group, which runs four fruit farms reportedly affected by the strike, said: "These interdicts order that the Le Roux Group's employees who are not participating in an unprotected strike enjoy the protection of the law, and it prohibits Bawusa officials from being present on any farm without written permission."

Signs of renewed unrest among agricultural workers in South Africa's Western Cape have been witnessed over the past few days, with Bawusa vowing to push ahead with further action following a strike that began last week and was still in place on Tuesday.

The union was reported as saying that it planned to ramp up its strike activity having caused disruption to four fruit farms run by Le Roux Group, a major exporter of plums, citrus and table grapes.

Bawusa alleged that the farm's owners had circumvented the recently increased national minimum wage of R105 (US$10.10) per day by deducting additional sums to cover items such as transport, rent and electricity.

"Management will now have to think seriously about whether they are prepared to sacrifice their opportunity to make money just for the sake of continuing this unjust conduct," Pieterse told Eye Witness News.

According to Le Roux Group's website, the company has around 1,100 permanent employees, but during peak harvesting time that figure is boosted by seasonal workers to over 3,500 employees, most of whom are transported to the farms on a daily basis.

Around 150 workers are understood to have staged a protest at the farm, apparently setting a truck on fire before burning a field in the nearby Sandrivier estate.

Pieterse said 20 people had been arrested and three were in hospital, although this could not be confirmed.

While he claimed workers at nine different farms had undertaken strike action, reports elsewhere suggested just four had been affected, namely Broodkraal (Piketberg), Sandrivier (Wellington), Joubertsdal and Mooikelder (Paarl).

The past week's action has so far been on nothing like the scale of violent strikes seen in the Western Cape this time last year, when protestors caused huge damage across some of South Africa's Cape fruit-growing regions.


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