Unions underwhelmed by minimum wage adjustment | Fin24

Unions underwhelmed by minimum wage adjustment

Feb 20 2020 06:56
Sibongile Khumalo

Labour unions have expressed disappointment at what they call an insufficient increase to the national minimum wage, saying the adjustments won't be enough to dent poverty levels among the lowest earners, given the increasing cost of living.

Government has announced that new national minimum wage will as from March 1 increase from R20 an hour to R20.76, an adjustment of 3.8%.

However, different wages apply to some special categories of workers, for example domestic workers, who will earn a minimum of R15.57 per hour; and farm workers, who will earn a minimum of R18.68 per hour. Workers in government's expanded public works programme will earn R11.42 per hour.

Unions had previously hoped for an increase of at least 12.5%. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) believes that the newly unveiled adjustments are a betrayal of the working class and will entrench income disparities.

"The increase is not sufficient, and it goes against the very ideals of the minimum wage, which is to lift people out of low wages," spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.

Pamla said the federation is still pushing for the inclusion of a clause which would empower the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to make its judgments on the national minimum wage immediately enforceable.

He said granting the CCMA such powers would help workers avoid lengthy and costly appeals to the Labour Court.

Zwelinzima Vavi, Secretary General of the South Africa Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) similarly rejected the amendments gazetted on Monday.

"Those who agreed to this adjustment must hang their heads in shame," he said, adding that the the increment would not cushion the working poor against inflation, which currently stands at 4%, according to December statistics.

Organised labour had in 2019 written to the National Minimum Wage Commission motivating for an increase that would take into account inflation since 2017. 

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) on Tuesday afternoon said it was working on its response to the new wages, but Acting Secretary General, Riefdah Ajam, indicated that the the changes were disappointing.

The minimum wage was first implemented in January 2019 following lengthy consultations between government, business and labour unions at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

At a Worker's Day rally in 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa called the wage a "great victory", saying the wage would provide a "firm and unassailable" foundation from which to build towards a living wage.

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