Strike to start again this week
Trade union federation Cosatu says a resumption of the farmworkers' strike on Wednesday can only be averted if AgriSA agrees to negotiate increased wages by different farming sectors.
But AgriSA, which is SA's largest farmers' unions, says it does not have a mandate to negotiate on behalf of farmers.
Farmworkers embarked on a violent strike in November on several Western Cape farms, demanding wages be increased to R150 a day from the current R69.
AgriSA president Johannes Möller said the organisation would assist Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to change agriculture's sectoral wage determination.
"If the strike goes ahead it would be disastrous; not just for a few farmers but for the industry," said Möller.
The deadlock in negotiations has, says Cosatu's Western Cape secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, left workers with very little choice but to resume their strike action after suspending it on November 14.
Two farmworkers were killed during the protest action in Western Cape.
"Associations want to negotiate because January is the busiest month of the harvesting season," says Ehrenreich.
He says that along with higher wages, workers are also demanding part ownership of farms as opposed to share-scheme deals that are currently being promoted in the Western Cape, as well as security of tenure to prevent their being evicted from farms.
Ehrenreich said striking workers would also call for a boycott of South Africa's fruit products exported overseas.
And while Cosatu was opposed to violence, Ehrenreich said farmworkers called for the strike and thus the union federation could make no guarantees that the strike would be peaceful.
"Workers are not prepared to continue working under these slave conditions," said Ehrenreich.