WIETA on the brink

The Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association is on the brink of imploding. Sarah Claasen, a farm worker and president of the Sikhula Sonke Farm Workers Trade Union, which has board representation on WIETA, calls for a mobilisation of farm workers “for our joint farm worker protest action planned for 4 December.”

wt 300x258 WIETA on the brink

She also “calls on the police and farmers to stop intimidating and victimizing our farm workers, and also calls on the police and government to release all our farm workers who has been arrested during the farm worker protest across the Western Cape during the past two weeks. We call on all our members to organise on farm and town levels and on our friends and stakeholders to assist in any form necessary. Aluta Continua!!”

Henk Bruwer, executive chairman of Wine Cellars SA, told his members today that you can’t run with the hares and hunt with the hounds and many producers see WIETA as part of the problem, not the solution.

How many of them will seek WIETA accreditation for their products after Sarah’s heartfelt Aluta Continua!! cry? After WIETA board members stand accused of fomenting the unrest? After WIETA accredited farms were destroyed and even empowerment farms damaged? In fact it seems that farms with the most progressive labour practices and that paid the highest wages were singled out by protesters.

It looks likely the WIETA board will split between farmers and labour and in the process, the baby will be thrown out with the bath water. Producers who paid through the nose for WIETA accreditation will be wishing they’d signed up for Fairtrade instead and what WOSA got for the R1.5 million they gifted WIETA this year, is something for further debate. The diversion of marketing moolah to so political an agenda is something for the WOSA board to justify.