Workers Furious over 50c Paypackets

Cape Times (South Africa), September 15, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Workers Furious over 50c Paypackets


FIFTY cents!

That's what greeted farmworker Sanna Moses and 13 of her colleagues when they opened their pay slips last Friday.

Moses had worked on the farm owned by Boet Immelman outside Porterville for two-and-a-half days last week at a rate of R7 an hour. But she only got a 50c coin in her paypacket after a one-off total of R148.10 was deducted for groceries at the farm shop.

The same thing happened to the other 13 farmworkers, all of whom are women, and who are permanently employed on Halfmanshof farm. All were paid only 50c after deductions were made for their shop debt and also for electricity costs.

"There was no indication that he (Immelman) would make these deductions. As a consequence, we couldn't do anything when we were 'paid' on Friday," said Moses's daughter, Veruschka, 24.

Instead, workers grouped together and shared the food they had between the families.

The deductions were made even though labour regulations state that not more than 10 percent can be deducted by an employer from a worker's wages, according to a spokesperson for the Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry (Bawsi).

This is the latest controversy on a Western Cape farm after a Human Rights Watch report stated that human rights abuses on farms in the province were rife.

But Danitia Immelman, who runs the daily affairs of the family farm, said workers were being dishonest about their low pay. She said at a meeting with the workers' union, it was agreed that because workers owed more than 10 percent of their wages, the outstanding debt would be "squared" last week.

"Last week we deducted everything they owed and now we won't be able to deduct more than R30 off their wages.

"Before, workers could buy groceries at the store on the (debtors) book for R120, now they can only buy for R30," said Immelman. The deductions for electricity were made because, in homes where more than two people worked on the farm, workers refused to indicate from whom the electricity bill should be deducted.

"At some of the houses they used R150 of electricity a week," said Immelman.

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