Radical farm workers union CSAAWU – currently fighting for survival after crippling legal costs – has won reinstatement for farm workers who were dismissed for striking.

The eleven workers who were dismissed from Steytler Boerdery outside Robertson for taking part in strikes in January 2013 have reached a settlement with their employer and have been reinstated.

This brings to an end a dispute which has dragged on for two years.

In June last year Judge Anton Steenkamp ruled that the Cape Town Labour Court did not have jurisdiction in the matter, because a proper referral and hearing at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) had not preceded the court case.

The CCMA has subsequently mediated the dispute, and brokered a settlement on 23 December last year.

The workers, most of whom are resident on the farm, have agreed to sign new contracts and ten of them started working again this week, said employer Dawid Steytler.

“Of course our relationship has been damaged by this dispute. But we are working to re-establish trust as soon as possible. In the end, the CCMA discussions were amicable, and that is a good start,” he said.

The workers were represented in court by the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union. General secretary Trevor Christians described the settlement as a win-win situation.

“The workers wanted to get back to work, because their families were struggling without an income,” he said.

“We had originally argued that the dismissals were unfair and that the workers should receive backdated pay for the months that they were unemployed. But this could not be settled upon. That is slightly disappointing, but all in all this is a good outcome because the workers are again able to earn an income.”

Ten of the eleven workers returned to work this week. The other has found another job in nearby Robertson.

One of the workers, Daniel Sambo, ​said from the farm on Friday​ that he was happy to be back at work. The period of unemployment had hurt” the families​, he said,​ because there in most cases there was no income.

“We are glad to be back and we have made peace with our boss. But​ ​we still support our union because they supported us during the time when we did not have work. They did not abandon us,” he said.

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Daneel Knoetze

Daneel is a reporter for GroundUp.

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