Call for national minimum wage

2012-09-16 14:05

Johannesburg - Cosatu will discuss implementing a national minimum wage in all sectors, at its congress starting on Monday.

"An initial national minimum wage set at say R2800, while still low, would have an immediate positive impact on millions of workers...," the Congress of SA Trade Union's said in its organisational report.

"This national minimum would be a legislated basic wage floor, below which no worker could fall," it said.

Cosatu said there were two possible ways to calculate a possible minimum wage.

It could be based on a minimum living level, although South Africa does not have an agreed standard.

The Labour Research Service has suggested a level of R4105 for a family of five, while the University of SA has put forward a supplementary living level of R4000 and the University of Pretoria's household effective level is R5500.

These figures are based on the cost of a basket of goods that each institution defines as necessary for basic living.

The second way of calculating a minimum wage is to look at the proportion of the average minimum wage to the national average wage.

The International Labour Organisation argues that a national minimum wage should not be less than 40 to 50 percent of the average wage, or about two-thirds of the median wage. The median wage is the point at which the same number of workers earn below and above the median.

"Our current ratio is around 22 percent of the national average wage.

"If we took a ratio of 40 percent, we would be looking at a minimum wage of between R4800 and R6000, or below that if we use the median wage calculation," Cosatu said.

"If we were to use these international yardsticks, we would arrive at a national minimum wage of around R5000."

Cosatu said this was double the current average minimum wages of the sectoral determinations, which control the terms and conditions of employment for workers in particular sectors.

"It might be difficult to achieve this in one bite, even with the strongest of campaigns."

Cosatu suggested looking at a first step of around R2800. This figure lies between the average minimum in sectoral determinations (R2118) and the average minimum wage of existing collective bargaining agreements (R3405) in 2011.

"This figure is purely raised for discussion purposes, and is not intended as a firm proposal," Cosatu said.

The introduction of a national minimum wage in Brazil did not lead to massive job losses, Cosatu said.

However, Adcorp labour economist Loane Sharp said the introduction of a national minimum wage would definitely lead to job losses.

"It's definitely feasible, but there's a trade-off involved; the higher the minimum wage, the lower the employment," Sharp said.

If a monthly national minimum wage of R5000 was set, anyone earning below that would probably lose their job, he said.

According to the Statistics SA Household Survey, 8.9 percent of the national workforce -- or 1.21 million people -- earn below R5000 a month.

"What it means is that people who are not worth R5000 to their employers will lose their jobs.

"Cosatu hopes that everyone who earns less will suddenly be pushed up to the minimum wage, but that is naive. Most people will simply lose their jobs," Sharp said. "It would be disastrous."

He said the average monthly wage in South Africa was R13,284 in the formal sector, outside farming. If the informal and farming sectors were included, the average monthly wage was R2852.

Cosatu's 11th national congress takes place from Monday to Thursday in Midrand.

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  • winifred.watson.9 - 2012-09-16 15:25

    The great master mind, here comes more unemployment. When will they get it through their thick skull we are in a recession thats just part of the problem people are not getting jobs and other problem is education. What has cosatu said about education......ZILCH

  • winifred.watson.9 - 2012-09-16 15:29

    Its remarkable how Government allows Cosatu to pull the strings, then they wonder why people are getting angry with them. No wonder Malema is trying to pull the carpet from under them.....

  • thepatrickwinter - 2012-09-16 15:40

    We are in seriuos trouble now as a nation. The so called 'Land of possibility' is now dead and buried. WE now live on the strongest of all emotions being 'hope'. 'Fear' on all levels is very present now for all of us. I thought the human race had evolved beyond the stupidity that we are now living through.

  • freddie.jones.58367 - 2012-09-16 21:00

    The way I understand life, is that employers choose to hire employees to do productive work. Employers pay a rate where the employees efforts contribute to the profitability of the employer. THERE IS NO OTHER REASON for employers to employ people. Employee's are paid for their contribution to the employer. Employee's are paid for WORKING, not living. Therefore there is no such thing as a 'living wage'.

  • david.mbombi - 2012-09-17 03:29

    cosatu must leave ds tripartite alliance n represent de workers. Hw can it protect workers whereas dey drink tea n play golf wit de bosses (employers). Dey own shares on de industry where dey claim to represent workers. Very soon enough wil b enough. Politicians stop feeding yo already distended bellies n feed de ppl who put u in power- service delivery 2 de poor nt building empire 4 yourselves. Tell yo frends (zuma n coy) 2 smell de storm. Wat happened in libya, egypt / syria?

  • peter.fraser.92754 - 2012-09-17 05:03

    We will have to go without _legal_ domestics and/or use illegal immigrants to do the job for cheaper.Lets face it, we dont want millions more unemployed, so go for whats available.

  • winifred.watson.9 - 2012-09-17 09:29

    Cosatu believe they have all the answers, please tell us who actually runs this country!!!!! will that person please stand up. Oh sorry I just missed his puppet show, him dancing and the brainy cadres shouting the odds behind the curtains.

  • michael.barns.1 - 2012-09-17 09:55

    You will be amazed how many people in a job get paid more because they are married and have children, than a person who is single and has no children.

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