After strikes in the mining industry rocked the South African economy last year — and left many mines shuttered — now South African farm workers have used work stoppages to push farm owners to pay more for the backbreaking work making the world famous South African wines.

Since November, farm workers in the $1.3 billion fruit and wine industry have been demanding pay increases and clashing with authorities, resulting in three deaths at the hands of police. But unlike the mine workers, the farm workers are not unionized, meaning workers have to negotiate individually with employers. They also are more vulnerable because most of them live on the farms and face eviction if they make demands on the farmers.

The government-mandated minimum wage is about $8 a day (69 rand). The farm workers are demanding that it be doubled to 150 rand a day. The workers are also seeking better living conditions, describing their dwellings on some farms as rat-infested hellholes, without toilets, running water or electricity. …

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