The management of the Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) has been instructed to conclude deliberations on the adjustment of the minimum wage for farmworkers, as per the mandate of its recent congress.
The AEA management was also instructed to consolidate the inputs of congress, to finalise the labour relations manual and also to look at practical ways to improve the work ethic amongst farmworkers by hosting labour days and training courses.
AEA vice-chairperson Hellmut Förtsch gave feedback about the progress the organisation has made on the negotiations regarding the new minimum wage. He said management has inter alia looked at increases in production costs and income of farmers over the past two years and calculated a proposed minimum wage.
Negotiations with the labour union are, however, at a deadlock.
“We do not need to negotiate for a settlement with the labour union, as they do not represent the majority of the farmworkers.
However, the AEA would like to be pro-active to prevent that a one-sided minimum wage is forced upon us by government, as has happened in South Africa. After discussions, congress gave a mandate to the AEA management for further negotiations,” he noted.
To discuss thr issue, congress divided into groups to get closer inputs on the AEA draft manual. Summerdown FA requested that workers – and not only employers – should also take responsibility for the state of labour relations, and this was also discussed by the groups.
In his opening remarks Namibia Agricultural Union ( NAU) president Ryno van der Merwe emphasised healthy labour relations as a prerequisite for sustainable and successful farming, noting that the management of labour relations was not always a priority for local farmers.
AEA chairperson Christine Stoman pointed out the lack of work ethics, thus calling for a generation-change, starting with the education of pre-school children.
Industrial psychologist Dr Christina Swart-Opperman addressed the role of emotional intelligence in farming labour relationships. She said an employer cannot motivate his/her employees. That motivation has to come from within.
Technical Training Advisor at Agra Professional Services Gunther Roeber noted that employers often do not want to invest in the training of their farmworkers, as it sounds expensive. However, considering the difference trained workers can make on one’s profit in the long term, it is worthwhile.
Sonja Pack from Farm Grünental shared experiences of labour practices on her farm with the congress attendants, such as including a merit bonus system for workers earned on the basis of performance every month of the year. She also pointed out the need for annual salary increases for workers to counter the erosive effect of inflation on their buying power.