Year: 2007
Working paper number: 181
Author: Murray, Justin
Unit: SSU

A survey of 103 sugarcane farmers on the KwaZulu-Natal coast was conducted in order to analyse the impact of the Sectoral Determination for Farm Workers (2002) on South African agriculture. The sample was separated into a high wage paying North Coast and lower wage paying South Coast. Typically farmers were unable to distinguish between the impact of the Sectoral Determination and other labour laws. Results indicate that the impact of the legislation is similar in each region. No respondents reported mass retrenchment, but job shedding is disguised by not replacing workers (especially unskilled workers) that leave the farm. A sizeable number of growers (17 per cent on the South Coast and 44 per cent on the North Coast) have reduced the working week to 27 hours (or 36 hours in the Felixton Mill Group Area) enabling them to pay wages on an hourly, rather than a weekly basis. This strategy reduces the effective wage. About 40 per cent of growers have reduced the in-kind benefits to their workers. About half of respondents indicated that they are likely to increase their use of seasonal and contract labour in future. Although a majority of respondents indicated that they considered mechanisation of the harvesting process, cost and topographical factors currently does not make this a serious alternative to manual harvesting. However, because of increased wage costs and the relatively strong currency in recent years, chemical weed control has become an attractive alternative to manual weed control.

Publication file: WP181.pdf