Female farm workers are the most vulnerable workers and face extreme hardship in the work place, according to deputy Labour Minister Phathekile Holomisa.
Speaking during a Know Your Rights campaign in the Western Cape on Tuesday, Holomisa highlighted the ongoing exploitation of females in the agricultural sector and the “unbelievable discrimination” experienced by female farm workers.
“Females in the fields are often given the least desired, lowest-paying jobs, are the first to be laid off, receive fewer opportunities to advance, and face a culture of discrimination.”
Holomisa added female farm workers encounter nearly the same issues that male farm workers face, yet females need to endure “unique issues” such as sexual harassment, and gender discrimination, as well as the extra responsibility of being the “primary caregivers of children”.
He added farm workers should receive the same statutory protection as other workers. “Workers’ rights are human rights that must be protected.”
The department has also said, to combat poverty, the government has introduced a minimum wage for farm workers.
At start of the employment relationship, employers are also expected to provide farm workers with written particulars of their terms and conditions of employment.
“No farmer worker who does honest work should live in poverty. We cannot speak about the importance of sustainable growth without recognising the importance played by farm workers in the economy. The world sustenance relies on farmers and farm workers as they play a critical role in food security.”
Holomisa also addressed child labour, after the department marked July 22 as National Child Labour Day, with the agricultural sector singled out as one in which many children used and exploited.
“The government treats child labour and forced labour in a serious light. Our constitution protects children from exploitative labour practices.”
The department added the possibility of a provident fund for farm workers and domestic workers is in the pipeline as well as the amendment of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).
“This seeks to address, among other things, the tendency on part of some employers to dismiss employees on the basis of occupational injuries and or other diseases. This means an employer will have to exhaust all rehabilitation and reintegration processes before laying off an employee.”