Media: South African wine industry rooted in human misery, says report

23 08 2011
in Johannesburg
The Guardian, Tuesday 23 August 2011
Unsuitable housing, pesticide dangers and barriers to union membership catalogued by Human Rights Watch monitors
South African vineyard worker
Just 3% of workers in the Western Cape agricultural sector have union representation. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

There is no question of its flair for producing a world-class chenin blanc, cabernet sauvignon or pinotage at an affordable price. But the provenance of South Africa‘s wines is altogether less savoury, an investigation by human rights monitors has revealed.

Workers on the country’s wine and fruit farms lead “dismal, dangerous lives,” according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which found on-site housing unfit for habitation, exposure to pesticides without proper safety equipment, lack of access to toilets or drinking water while working and barriers to union representation.

Farm workers contribute millions to South Africa‘s economy, with products that are sold in Tesco and other British supermarkets, yet they are among the lowest wage earners in the country, the group’s report says. Read the rest of this entry »


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