South African Diary: Tesco makes billions, but workers continue to suffer hardship

10 May 2009 - 12:00am

Once Wendy had briefed the journalist and photographer at the Sikhula Sonke office, we headed off to meet workers on two of the farms supplying Tesco. After a 30-minute journey we came to a large orchard of tangerine trees. Halfway to the compound that housed workers, we encountered about 100 workers sitting around a small fire, their faces covered with yellow and terracotta mud to protect them from the sun. They were supposed to be working, but could not yet start for the day. It was chilly and the sun had yet to appear, which meant that the leaves were wet and therefore could not be picked. The lack of sun was unfortunate for the workers, who won't be paid if they cannot work.

This is the reality of a seasonal worker. Their jobs aren't secure and their wages aren't guaranteed. In South Africa there are around one million farm workers, 60% of whom are seasonal workers; two thirds of all seasonal workers are women.

Graciela Romero, Director of International Programmes, is keeping a diary of her trip to South Africa, where she is visiting Sikhula Sonke, an women's trade union and War on Want partner organisation.


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