GEORGE NEWS - Protest action in Touwsranten came to an end last week Thursday when a settlement for a wage dispute at Mandalay farm was reached.
The strike by members of the trade union NCFAWU (National Certificated Fishing and Allied Workers Union) not only affected workers at Mandalay, but strained farming activities at various other farms in Hoekwil whose workers were allegedly intimidated and threatened.
The union represents about 80 workers of Mandalay, a vegetable farm owned by Peter Leppan.
The strike started last week Monday, 13 May, in the early hours of the morning, and stretched over four days.
Although NCFAWU obtained permission for a peaceful legal strike, it seems they did not stick to the rules. From the Monday several incidents were reported of rocks thrown at vehicles and staff members at the pick-up points in Touwsranten.
These incidents allegedly quietened down when the police were present, but flared up when workers were picked up or dropped off.
Leppan said he is very glad it's all over. "We reached a two-year settlement, R1 above minimum wage. We altered the qualifications for bonuses, but bonuses will still be given on merit," he said.
Speaking to various sources, George Herald obtained information that workers on several farms - unrelated to the wage dispute at Mandalay - feared for their lives and property.
Threats were made to workers who live in Touwsranten and work on different farms.
According to one source, workers who were picked up for duty on Thursday morning quickly jumped off a bakkie when strikers threatened to burn their houses should they go to work. "We were down to skeleton staff," said the source. "The people were terrified."
George Herald reliably learned that a threat by some strikers to burn Leppan's farm last Thursday evening made the rounds.
The trade union leader, Clarence Mtyenele, said he was unaware of any incidents of stone throwing by union members. When asked for comment on Friday, he said no allegations of violence were brought to his attention.
"We saw the pictures of the stone throwing only on Wednesday, and were notified of the accusations by George Herald," said Mtyenele.
"What I did notice on Thursday morning [16 May], is that there were many other workers who joined the strike for their own reasons. I had to tell them by 12:00 to go home."