More than 70% of farm workers are not unionised, study shows
Report recommends spreading awareness about the Basic Conditions of Employment Act among employers and employees
A study by the department of employment & labour has found that 77.7% of workers in the agricultural sector are not unionised, with 25% of the employees saying their salaries were decided solely by the employer.
The study was conducted nationwide between 2018 and 2019 and is titled “An Investigation into Agricultural Work: A Decent Work Approach”. It sampled 4,055 employees and 210 employers, and its response rate was 86%.
The study was aimed at gaining a better insight into the status of decent work deficits in the agricultural sector, with a specific focus on assessing barriers and enablers in the promotion of decent work by farm employers, among others.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) introduced the concept of decent work in 1999, with the four pillars being productive employment; rights at work; social protection; and promotion of dialogue.
The main findings of the study are that among those who were permanently employed during the period under review, 78% had a written contract, while 22% had a verbal contract.
It found that 69% of employees would have liked to work more hours in their current job; that 63.2% had access to family responsibility leave while 47.5% received maternity leave; and 76.5% had access to vacation leave.
The study found that 48.3% of employers pay pension, compensation for occupational injuries and disease (38.1%) and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (87%).
Regarding a safe work environment, the study found that a total of 8.5% of employees contracted diseases and 17.5% sustained injuries on duty.
With regards to employers, the survey revealed that employers instituted unpaid leave when the farm experienced adverse weather conditions.
Employers stated that employees refused to sign contracts based on the advice of union leaders. “Furthermore, employers mentioned that employees refused to sign the contracts because they were written in Afrikaans,” the survey stated.
The department recommended that “easy access” be facilitated for union officials at farms in an effort to “foster good working relations for all social partners in this sector”.
Creating awareness about the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) among employers and employees was also among the recommendations.
The agriculture industry is one of the main sectors of the ailing SA economy, which is battling a technical recession, due in part to load-shedding.