South African Wine Workers Join Strike Movement

Well, I just received an email that the farmworkers that support the South African wine industry have decided today to join the strike and demonstration movements that are currently shaking South Africa. I’ve cut and pasted the email (which itself is a copy of this media release from the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Camapaign). Apart from the whole aspect of how these developments in SA reflect a failure of the ANC to make good on its liberation heritage, I was wondering what – if anything – Bermuda could do about this. On the one hand I reckon we should seek to learn more about the reasons for this current uprising and what we can take from it for Bermua; on the other hand I though maybe people could boycott SA wine for this period in solidarity with the SA workers – or alternatively splurge on Fair Trade SA wine. Any takers? Would be nice if an organisation like the BIU or the PLP decided to support this and put out a message calling on all members to do so. Just ideas anyway…

Farm workers in Stellenbosch demand an end to inhumane forced evictions, appalling housing and retrenchments: 27 July to 1 August 2009

Farm workers embark on a week of radical action, Monday 27 July to Saturday 1 August. They come from the Boland, West Coast, Breede River, Witzenburg, Overberg, Oostenberg, Breede Valley and Swartland. This action takes place on the eve of the famous Stellenbosch wine festival and coincides with several uprisings for service delivery across the country.

The action starts on the flower farm, Kaapfleurs, at 17h00 on Monday 27 July. Workers at Kaapfleurs literally live in pigsties and face retrenchments. We will plant seeds on the farm on Tuesday 28 July.

On Tuesday we start our journey to the National Parliament in Plein Street at 16h00 where we will hold a night vigil, camping out at the gates of Parliament.

On Wednesday 29 July, we will meet with our partners, supporters and the media at St Georges Cathedral on Wale Street, from 11h00, during which we will light candles in solidarity with the million farm workers who were displaced and evicted from farms during the first ten years of our democracy, farmworkers who still bear extreme hardships on a daily basis, farmworkers who produce the food that sustains our rainbow nation.

We expect President Jacob Zuma to address us at Parliament at 12h00 on Wednesday. During the afternoon we will continue our demonstration with testimonies, music, poetry and solidarity messages at Parliament.

Our protests resume in Stellenbosch on the evening of 30 July, for the start of the Stellenbosch wine festival, during which we will highlight grave issues farm workers are confronted with on these farms on a daily basis. We are targeting specific farms where the wine festival takes place.

Stellenbosch farms show the realities and lives of so many farm workers and farm dwellers across South Africa, many of whom are still treated as slaves.

The rally is supported by a number of farm worker trade unions, organizations and other partners, including Alternative Information Development Centre, Engender, ILRIG, Mayibuye, New Women’s Movement, Surplus People’s Project, Triangle Project, Trust for Community Outreach & Education, Women on Farms Project and various community and faith leaders.

The public and media are invited to attend the week of action starting on Monday 27 July at Kaapfleurs farm.

The rally is organised by the farm worker trade union, Sikhula Sonke.


Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch is the centre of South Africa’s wine industry and the home of the world famous University of Stellenbosch.

Wine Estates. Stellenbosch is home to about 120 wine estates.

What happen behind the label? We want to tell the stories of workers that people often do not hear. It is the story of the hardships people bear on a daily basis.

On several wine farms in Stellenbosch, Sikhula Sonke members are victimised to leave the farms and are offered between ten to R50 000 rand compensation, farm worker children are forced to pay high rental or victimised to leave the farm when they reach the age of 18. Refusal to do so leads to electricity or water cuts.

Rus & Vrede, Hydro, Bilton wines, Sterhuis, De Clapmuts and Soverby are just a few farms with appalling practices towards farmworkers.

Workers on Knorhoek were moved to Idas Valley on the basis that the houses will become their property. In October 2008 a 69 year old woman was evicted without alternative accommodation.

On Ernie Els wines, a process to retrench workers has started after a collective bargaining dispute was declared with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

In 2007 several police officers attacked members on Bilton Wines in their home after instructions of the farm manager.

On Kaapfleurs workers are living in pigsties, some for more then 20 years. On Avondrus, Koelenhof farm, Welgevonden, Rus and Vrede, and Vorentoe workers are living in the most appalling conditions.

We call on the public and wine buyers to ensure that the wine they purchases are ethically produced and workers are treated humanely.

Enough is Enough!!!!

We will no longer tolerate ill treatment of workers and demand that Government expropriate farms where there are bad practices.


3 thoughts on “South African Wine Workers Join Strike Movement

  1. Anyone interested in a relatively short and interesting read about the South African wine industry and its relation to the liberation struggle (and developments post-Apartheid) might enjoy this document:

    ‘Fair Trade Wine: South Africa’s Post-Apartheid Vineyards and the Global Economy’


    The history of unfair labour practices in South Africa’s wine industry is as old as the sector itself, dating back to the seventeenth century. The situation, however, has begun to slowly change since the fall of Apartheid in 1994. While the South African wine industry is still largely white owned, the country’s major wine production zone (the Western Cape) is now dotted with a variety of black-owned and black co-owned vineyards that are Fair Trade certified or marketing their wines as worker produced or black owned. This study explores these various arrangements (Fair Trade, worker produced, and black owned), and their connections to local and international wine markets. In particular, it explores the potential of these arrangements to create real change in labour conditions and the welfare of historically disadvantaged farm workers. In comparison to other agricultural sectors in South Africa, the wine industry is an especially interesting case because of its economic importance, growing export potential, and history of white dominance.

    (click on the View Article PDF to read in full)

  2. Great! I am going to be in Stellenbosch next week!

    I am sure that there are some bad working conditions on some of the wine farms, but I also am aware of some very progressive wine farms where the workers have received equity in the farms themselves; or where whole areas of farms have been given to the workers as co-ops, and the use of the wine making and harvesting equipment is shared amongst the original owners and the workers co-op on reasonable commercial terms.

    Pitts Bay

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