Picture: 123RF/RIANA88W
Picture: 123RF/RIANA88W

Thursday’s horse racing at the Vaal racecourse had to be abandoned after grooms went on strike at the Randjesfontein training centre in Midrand.

Grooms at the centre approached the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to represent their grievances over wages. Negotiations started on Wednesday and concluded on Thursday.

According to race horse trainer Geoff Woodruff‚ some of the trainers spent the night in their stables after they were threatened.

"There was talk about going into the stables and letting all the horses out. That would probably have been the most peaceful of what they (grooms) were talking about‚" Woodruff said on Thursday afternoon. "I have now been here for the past 36 hours.

Two other trainers‚ who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of victimisation‚ as well as the EFF’s Tyrone Mkansi confirmed these threats.

Trouble @ Randjiesfontein racing centre again, EFF grooms, a security house was burned down, NO racing at the Vaal...

Posted by Adrian Kuschinski on Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Mkansi said: "We told them that even if they don’t comply [with the negotiations] they will not go to the Durban July."

About 1‚000 racehorses are kept at Randjesfontein.

Mkansi tweeted photos of the protest‚ showing grooms blocking the entrances.

Woodruff said on Thursday they settled on a wage of R1‚000 per week. "We would love to pay them really much higher wages‚ but for financial constraints. We can’t pay them what’s not there‚" Woodruff said. "We are not going to be retrenching‚ but we certainly won’t be hiring."

Woodruff said there had been several reports that owners were considering leaving horse racing. "There will be more people dropping out of racing‚ because they are going to say keeping a racehorse is unaffordable. This will inevitably lead to losses."

Mkansi denied that an agreement was reached‚ but grooms agreed to feed the horses until Monday when negotiations will resume.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on labour met with the Department of Labour and the Department of Trade and Industry on June 13 to discuss issues that affected employees in the horse racing industry.