There is contradiction in Constitution regarding child labour, claim farmworkers organisations

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Farmworkers organisations in the Western Cape claim a contradiction exists between the Constitution’s prohibition on child labour and the sectoral determination that governs working conditions on farms.

The Ubuntu Rural and Youth Movement says, according to the Sectoral Determination, 16 to 18-year-olds are allowed to work on farms.

However, the South African Constitution considers anyone under the age of 18 to be a child. According to experts, farms employ up to 70% of South Africa’s child labourers.

Employing a child under the age of 15 is a crime in South Africa, according to the Basic Conditions of Employment. It states that children aged 15 to 18 must not do work that is inappropriate for their age or be put in danger.

A recent study by the Department of Labour says about 60% of children found working, do so in order to help their parents financially and that constitutes unlawful child labour.

Co-ordinator at Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Organisation, Wendy Pekeur says, “For the mere fact that the sectoral determination that sets minimum wages and conditions of employment, allow children of farmworkers of ages between 15 and 18 to work on the farm, or any child between those changes, so now there’s a contradiction with the constitution that says any person of the age up to 18, is considered a child. Even though the sectoral determination speaks of 35 hours and not be exposed to hazardous work, it’s still child labour.”

Agri-Wescape CEO, Dannie Strydom, is urging farmers to keep within the confines of the law. “As an organisation we are not aware of any incidents regarding child labour. The western cape farms are regularly visited by the department of labour to do audits, and from the western cape side we urge our members to stay within the confines of the law.”

Labour lawyer, Michael Bagraim says it’s still a problem in the country that some farmers still employ children.

Bagraim says, “With regard to child labour, in particular child labour on farms, we know that there’s a problem, apparently about 70% of the child labour in South Africa is farm-based. The problem is more often people don’t know that child labour is not allowed, and many of the farmers abuse the situation, we know that in terms of the basic employment act, 15 years is the cut-off and they can’t use them under the 15 years old, that cannot be allowed in South Africa, and unfortunately, it is the real problem. The International Labour Organisation has turned on the issue they are busy tackling it.”

The fifth Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour which wrapped up in Durban this week is calling on everyone to play their part in ending child labour.

VIDEO: The 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour: