Good labour practices and relationships in the spotlight
— Vastrap Enterprises (Part 2)
ELMARIE HELBERG, SA Graan/Grain contributor
In the March issue of SA Graan/Grain we talked to Quentin and Marisa de Bruyn of Vastrap Enterprises about their staff – which they believe is the most important asset of their farming business and this philosophy underlines their approach to labour practices.
Recognition and motivation
“We try extremely hard to give positive reinforcement for good work. This includes individual affirmation in our morning meetings as well as an annual prize giving for the most improved and most valuable employees in the older and younger age groups. We try to achieve a good balance between reward and discipline.
“On the discipline side, we keep accurate records of infringements in terms of written warnings and disciplinary meetings as required by the law. On the reward side, we have an all-encompassing bonus scheme, which rewards sobriety, extraordinary effort and discourages absenteeism and infringements of the labour contract,” Quentin said.
Quentin and Marisa believe that a minimum wage is necessary to prevent exploitation. “R2 400 per month is not a lot to live on, but unfortunately the last 52% increase in the minimum wage has led to many job losses and has forced producers to be more productive with less staff. This, in combination with the land tenure act, has had many unintended negative consequences for employment in the farming sector. While the reasons for this legislation are clear and necessary, there should be more engagement with producers to understand the consequences of such measures and to find workable solutions to improve living standards on farms.”
At Vastrap Enterprises they believe legislation provides a technical guideline for dealing with disputes. However, more often than not emotional and social factors play a more important role in resolving disputes.
At Vastrap they rely on a much more consultative process where elders from the community are involved to gain a better understanding of the issues at hand. Everything is documented in front of witnesses to ensure that all parties are held to the agreements reached. Trained and skilled staff is extremely valuable and hard to replace, therefore they see dismissal as a last resort.
A few tips
Tips from Vastrap Enterprises on how to get the best from your workforce:
- Treat your workers and their families with dignity and respect.
- Put in place a structured bonus scheme that rewards and self-regulates good performance and behaviour, rather than just punitive measures for offences. For example, our bonus scheme has helped to resolve previous issues with absenteeism and alcohol abuse in the workplace.
- Get to know your staff outside of the work environment by organising staff braais and team building excursions.
- Put as much time and thought into improving your labour relations as you would spend on improving your farming operations. It is an integral cog in the wheel.
Vastrap Enterprises is a mixed farming business near Ladybrand in the Eastern Free State.
Share you practices with fellow producers
Grain SA members are welcome to share with their fellow producers their tips and advice for good labour practices
and relations on the farm; or methods that they apply on their farms that work for them.
Send an email to email@example.com and we will contact you.
Publication: April 2015