Women on Farms Project (WFP) wrote to Minister Nxesi on 1 April and 27 April, calling for the reopening of Labour Centres. Minister Nxesi has not responded to our letters. Since the start of the lockdown, farm women have reported their growing inability to feed their families because they have not received their UIF payments.
President Ramaphosa, since the country has moved into Level 4 of the lockdown, seasonal farm workers call on you to:
1. Immediately reopen Labour Centres by classifying them as an essential service, because they are the lifeline for tens of thousands of seasonal farm workers. (Obviously, all social distancing and hygiene protocols should be observed).
2. Introduce mobile Labour Centres to travel around farming areas to process UIF applications. (Public transport restrictions make travel from farms to towns difficult.)
3. Introduce a Free Call or Data Free phone or WhatsApp service for the processing of UIF applications.
4. Ensure that UIF payments are made within three working days.
Why is this important?
With the harvest season on most grape and wine farms having ended in March, thousands of seasonal farm workers, the majority of whom are women, urgently need to apply for their unemployment benefits. However, because Labour Centres have been closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown, workers are unable to process their UIF applications. Online applications are not feasible for most farm workers who do not have access to computers, smartphones and data.