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Ill treatment of wine industry workers won't be tolerated‚ warns MEC

By TMG Digital | 2016-11-18 06:49:32.0

Investigations into conditions at Western Cape wine farms had produced clear evidence that some employees were being poorly treated‚ the province’s economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde has said.

“This was never‚ ever acceptable‚ and it still isn’t. It will not be tolerated‚” Winde said after being briefed by the national Department of Labour on Thursday.

The department had investigated allegations contained in a recent documentary by a Danish filmmaker on the conditions of farmworkers at some of the country’s top wine estates.

The documentary‚ entitled Bitter Grapes — Slavery in the Vineyards‚ by Tom Heinemann‚ was aired in Denmark and Sweden last week.

Its airing resulted in some supermarkets in Denmark taking South African wines off their shelves.

The Scandinavian region consumes 50 million litres of South African wine a year.

The documentary described widespread violations of labour laws‚ exposure to toxic pesticides without protective gear‚ shocking living conditions and an unofficial ‘dop’ system.

The documentary prompted the labour department‚ assisted by the provincial department‚ to investigate.

Winde said on Thursday he was briefed on the findings of the department’s investigation into the allegations and welcomed the contravention notices issued to some farms.

“Of particular concern were the contraventions found at one farm‚ where workers did not have access to safe drinking water‚ and where housing was not of an acceptable standard‚” Winde said.

He said that although the law gave the farmer 14 days to deal with the most critical failures‚ he had instructed the farm worker support unit within the Western Cape agriculture department to assist in improving the situation.

Winde said he would be meeting with provincial social development MEC Albert Fritz to work on putting systems in place to detect any violations on farms timeously‚ through the provincial department of social development’s network of social workers.

Winde said he would be engaging with organised agriculture to root out the offenders.

“We will take a hard line against these acts‚ and root out offenders. We cannot allow unethical operations at some farms to put people’s well-being and an entire industry‚ which employs over 200 000 people‚ in jeopardy‚” Winde said.


— TMG Digital