Several sectors in South Africa continue to be characterised by remunerative inequalities. This is particularly true of the agricultural sector, which employs an estimated 900,000 people at a minimum wage of R150 per day.
Image Courtesy Innovative Staffing Solutions
The wage anomalies in the sector came under the spotlight in 2012 when farm workers in the Western Cape called for a living wage, improved living conditions and paid maternity leave. Organised by women employed on wine farms in the region, the protracted strike resulted in an increase of the minimum wage from R69 to R105 per day.
The increase was somewhat of a hollow victory, given the loss of life and retributive action taken by some farmers, such as increasing the rent for farm workers by 100% and threatening to evict those who were not able to pay. In some instances, ‘perks’ such as schooling and basic healthcare were also withdrawn.
March 2017 saw an increase of the minimum wage for farm workers to R150 per day. While the setting of a minimum wage seems to be a positive solution, it is not necessarily sustainable for the farmers, who are reeling from the worst drought in over a decade as well as the devastating impact of the Western Cape fires and a largely stagnant economy.
So how can the “human element” behind the execution of a minimum wage structure be addressed without negative consequences for farmers and farm workers alike?
It is within this milieu that Innovative Staffing Solutions has solid value to add. Established in 2013 as the brainchild of CEO Arnoux Maré, Innovative Staffing Solutions partners with organised labour to negotiate and implement fair pay, equitable benefits, job security and improved working conditions for the benefit of all stakeholders. With more than 7,000 permanent employees on its books from the agriculture, transport, hospitality, engineering and mining industries, the company has shown success in reducing absenteeism and sick days amongst staff. Clients also enjoy the benefit of improved efficiency and productivity, without compromising employee benefits.
From an industrial relations perspective, Maré says Innovative Staffing Solutions takes on the onerous task of workforce negotiations, day-to-day staff management, training and disciplinary processes, allowing organisations to focus on their operations.
“By assuming responsibility for our clients’ employees, we take on their complete human resource function, allowing them to focus on their businesses without the unnecessary distraction of staff recruitment, training and labour relations minutiae.”
Essentially, Innovative Staffing Solutions employs its clients’ staff on a permanent basis as its own full-time employees. In exchange, employees often receive benefits they may not have previously received from their employers.
Notably, Innovative Staffing Solutions has never experienced industrial action.
“This means our clients’ businesses and their bottom lines are not negatively impacted by labour unrest, which is generally associated with sectors such as transportation, mining and engineering. We believe this is due to employee loyalty and a happy workforce. It’s a win-win situation for the agriculture sector. We can help farmers and their workers to reach equitable solutions by taking the stress of human resource issues out of the equation,” concludes Maré.