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Wage strike at Leeuwenkuil vineyards

About 25 winery workers picketed outside Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards in Stellenbosch on Tuesday morning. A week ago, another picket was held at the vineyard’s Malmesbury depot.

The workers say wage negotiations were terminated by Leeuwenkuil’s management. Lennox Makasi of the National Union of Food, Beverage, Wine, Spirits and Allied Workers, which is representing the workers, says they had rejected an offer of a 7.34% average increase in wages. Workers had initially demanded a 13% increase, but after negotiations with management, they were willing to settle for 10%.

Makasi said there is no national minimum wage for winery workers. Workers say they are receiving R2,779 a month (R653 per week). A salary slip shown to GroundUp would seem to confirm this.

However, Kobus De Kock, the managing director of Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards, said the “least paid employees’ total cost to company is R3,217.29, equalling R743 per week”.

He denied withdrawing from the negotiation process. He said the union could still approach the company with a proposal.

“The company offered a minimum of 6% up to 12% with an average of 7.34%. It was revoked as agreement could not be reached and the workers elected to strike even after the efforts of the commissioner at the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration),” said De Kock.

He said the onus was now on the union to propose a way forward.

Bulelo Ndingaye, a pump operator at the Malmesbury depot, said management had a “take it or leave it” attitude in the negotiations.

He said the money the workers took home “is just enough for food for our families and nothing else”.

Ndigaye said they were prepared to stay on strike until management was willing to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement.

“We know that workers are suffering because of this strike but they are used to having nothing. The business has more to lose,” said Makasi.

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