2004 was the year when the workers at a wine estate in Stellenbosch joined Sikhula Sonke. A lot of things have happen since then. They have negotiated so the farmer pays R75 for the dentist twice a year and for eye test and spectacles if it’s needed. “In the past we had to go to the government clinic when we were sick, now we can go to a good private doctor four times a year and the farmer will support us with R100 each time we go.” Say one of the workers.
Evictions on the farm have been stopped and there has been improvement about family responsibility leave and maternity leave for both men and women. From before they get good working clothes, rain clothes and special protecting shoes. It has been further increases in terms of more health and safety in working place.
They had a crèche on the farm for 30 years but after discussion have they now also got an aftercare for the older children in afternoon. Teachers are doing activities such as games, drawing, homework, extra lessons and different sports. The farmer provides transport to school for the children everyday.
The wage negotiations have gone forward, even if it stills a lot to come up to a living wage. When the negotiation started this year was it with increases on 6.5 -9%, depend on your working task. The final wage increase come up to 9.75%, from weekly R392.50 to R430.77, as a minimum wage for the workers in group 4 with the lowest salary, like general workers and grape cutters. For the group with most advanced working task, like supervisors and truck drivers, was the increase 7.25%, from R631.45 to R677.23 weekly, as a minimum wage. The government minimum wage for farm workers, general workers per week, in South Africa is R303.84.
“Sikhula Sonke is the first trade union that really does things for us the workers. Not only on the paper, also in real. Beyond all this benefits, we have also got training about our rights. The union is very close to the workers and aware of that everybody understands their rights and what’s happen. They not just give knowledge and courage the people; they also empower good leaders on the farm and teach us how to communicate in a good way with the farmer and authorities. Now we as shop stewards have meetings with the farmer on our own and discuss things we want to change on the farm.” Say on of the shops stewards.
In the future are they going to continued to fight for a living wage and 40 hours working weeks. And their biggest dream, to own their own houses. “Bigger houses there it is space and privately for everybody, houses where we can invest and be sure that our children can stay even if something happen to us!”