To find a means by which stakeholders in the agricultural sector can arrive at decent working conditions for workers whilst building a common vision for a sustainable agriculture sector.
Farm workers have historically been one of the most marginalised and vulnerable worker groups in South Africa. The agriculture sector in South Africa contracted significantly following deregulation in the 1990s and many workers lost permanent jobs and became more seasonal or casual labourers. This provided unregulated labour providers the opportunity to exploit the increasing population of vulnerable seasonal workers.
As a recent ILO report highlights, living and working conditions in the agriculture sector continue to be weak and many workers suffer from a lack of representation. Workers do not have access to bargaining structures to negotiate better livelihoods with their employers & government, yet at the same time, suppliers are under pressure to meet international social standards. The social unrest on horticultural farms in the Western Cape in 2012 was a clear symptom of these problems.
Our new project in the Western Cape, Decent Work for South African Farmers through Effective Social Dialogue, aims to promote effective social dialogue among both national and international stakeholders who play key roles in influencing working conditions in the horticulture sector in South Africa. Social dialogue is defined by the International Labour Office to include all types of negotiation, consultation or simply exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy.
We believe that addressing the barriers to effective social dialogue in the sector will enable local players to speed up the process of improvement in the rights and entitlements of agri-workers, especially casual workers, as well as enhance the quality of their employment and their ability to organise. The project will take a multi-stakeholder approach and look at the barriers to social dialogue and sustainable agriculture in the Western Cape, identify solutions and promote collective action. We propose that this can be done most effectively through the establishment of a social dialogue platform.
The programme is being implemented in partnership with University of Cape Town, Institute for Development and Labour Law and Western Cape Economic Development Partnership. It is funded by the Commonwealth Foundation.