Workers on farm in dispute

WORKERS at Tarlton Gardens, a farm outside Krugersdorp on the West Rand, have paid the price for attending a national farmworkers' summit and demanding better working conditions.

Twenty-one workers affiliated to the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) said on Friday that farm owner Louis Nobrega served them with suspension letters after a shop steward, Annelai Sebogodi, returned from a government-convened summit in Somerset West, Western Cape, last month.

A colleague, Cecilia Mothobi, said they had had running battles with Nogrega, but the last straw was when Sebogodi attended the summit where she represented other workers.

"Our troubles with the boss started in January when we revived the union. Relations worsened when we demanded protective clothing that included overalls, safety boots, hand gloves and respirators. The farm grows lettuce, cabbage and carrots.

"He has been refusing to provide these necessities and waited for Anneila to attend the summit. She did not pay her for Friday and Saturday when she was away. When I approached him, asking why he did not clock her card for payment for the two days, he said Anneila must go to Fawu or Zuma (president) to demand her money,"Mothobi said.

The Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries held a national farmworkers' summit on July 30 and 31 to discuss the plight of vulnerable workers who continued to suffer abuses at the hands of their employers.

Farmers' representative body AgriSA walked out of the summit.

Fawu West Rand organiser Mike Maloba described Nobrega as being anti-transformation. "It is difficult to even organise on his farm, " Maloba said.

Nobrega said yesterday he could not talk to Sowetan because he was attending a theatre show.

He continued: "I am warning you. If you publish anything my lawyers will be on you.

"I will read the newspaper tomorrow and if I find a story I will be on you," before slamming down the phone.

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