Minimum wage is out of touch with economic realities: FSA

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The farming community in the Free State has expressed mixed views on the adjusted national minimum wage that is coming into effect next month.

Free State Agriculture (FSA) says the minimum wage is out of touch with economic realities and will also place a substantial burden on the sector.

Its president Francois Wilken says the adjustment published in the Government Gazette, is indicative of the total lack of understanding about the economic conditions in the country.

The new National Minimum Wage will increase from R25. 42 to R27. 58 an hour, starting on the 1st of March. All workers including farm workers and domestic workers must earn that minimum rate per hour.

Keen to put food on their tables, in most farming areas, communities depend on farms for jobs. Farm workers toil under the scorching summer sun and endure the icy winter months, to work the land.

Some are not even aware of the minimum wage and are just happy to provide for their families.

“Ever since I started working here, I’m realizing some things that I didn’t realize before now. I feel like it is what I love because working here you learn a lot,” a farm worker says.

“We are still working well and we feel we are getting paid well. now we are fixing the fence,” a farm worker explains.

Emerging farmers say times are tough for them.

However, they say they still value their employees. And sometimes they have to negotiate with them about their wages.

“It’s good but it will depend on a farmer, they are going to approach this but as I was listening to the radio there is a process that one has to follow, you just say you cannot do this, it’s overloaded to me,” a farmer says.

“We are trying to work…though conditions are not conducive. What has a big impact for us as emerging farmers, I have a small space I have employed people. I also use municipal land that we were renting hoping that we will get assistance to no avail,” another farmer elaborates.

Free State Agriculture says proper consultation and consideration of the economy must be prioritized to avoid unnecessary job cuts. It believes that farmers will resort to reducing jobs if financial pressures increase.

“We are not saying we don’t want to pay but the national minimum wage should be reduced reasonably. The impression that prices go up because of the farmers is wrong. A lot of proceed are added during process that lead to prices of food and oil increasing,” says Francois Wilken, Free State Agriculture President.

“For me that seems like a reasonable amount, these farm workers you will find that most of them do not have basic needs; clinics, education, and also, they need to be proud and bring dignity to their home. I do feel that the amount given will be reasonable. We are not talking here about emerging farmers, we are talking about commercial farmers,” says Realeboha Mokgethi, Free State Chair of African Farmers’ Association of South Africa.

Emerging farmers have bemoaned the current weather conditions and economic climate.

They have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to be mindful of them as the country’s food producers, during his SONA, in order to boost the economy.

Source: SABC News (