The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has commissioned an important and in-depth report profiling the range of social dialogue initiatives in the farming sector. The report maps ten initiatives in the Western Cape and provides a nuanced analysis of the social and economic complexities which shape relations in the agricultural sector. Margareet Visser from the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group at UCT who drafted the report observes that:
Farmworkers are no longer a homogenous group, but are increasingly characterised by a hierarchy of workers: at the top end are male, permanent on-farm workers; at the bottom female, migrant, off-farm workers; and in the middle are a host of configurations of these two. Neither are employers a homogenous group: instead they farm with different products that require different labour intensity and have different scope for generating profits. They also sell into a range of different markets with a wide spectrum of requirements.
The report identifies a number of best practices emerging from the different social dialogue initiatives. These include the need for:
- clear and agreed terms of reference
- bounded and structured agendas
- an independent and credible chair acceptable to all parties
- a dedicated secretariat to document the process
- a small team of facilitators who can work with producers and workers to help them consolidate their views
- strengthening the social dialogue platform by locating it within a framework of statutory powers so that decisions made can leverage institutional and policy traction to ensure implementation.
The WCDOA report adds value to the proposals contained within the Cape Winelands draft strategy which has been released for public comment which focuses on ways to address farm worker housing, tenure security and access to services.
In particular it proposes the need for a independent secretariat to align and communicate the different SDI initiatives and identify overlapping points of discussion in order to facilitate collective discussion with government.
The report is available on request from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture.