NEWS & ANALYSIS

Act against employers who refuse to comply with NMW – COSATU

Federation says name-and-shame will put pressure on employers but dept should act faster

The Department of Labour needs to decisively act against obstinate employers who refuse to comply with the National Minimum Wage Act 

14 March 2019

COSATU notes with disillusionment the Department of Labour (DOL)’s commitment to name and shame employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage (NMW) by the end of March. Whilst this is important and will hopefully help put pressure on intransigent employers comply with the NMW Act, it is a big problem that the department is only doing this three months after the NMW came into effect. 

The Department of Labour needs to really appreciate the plight of the workers and the impact that their lackadaisical attitude have on their livelihoods.  It is saddening to see that workers, in this country, continue to be let down by their own government, which panders to every whim of these employers.

The National Minimum Wage Act and related Regulations which the DOL drafted and that were agreed to by business and labour at Nedlac in 2018, require the government to do the following:

- Publish on the DOL website all employers who have been granted NMW exemptions.

- Publish on the DOL website all employers who fail to pay the NMW.

- Ensure that workers and unions have been consulted by companies applying for NMW exemptions.

- Ensure all bargaining council agreements and sectoral determinations have been raised if they were below the NMW.

- Fine employers who have failed to pay the NMW from 1 January.

- Ensure the affected workers receive their back pay due to them.

- Ensure employers who repeatedly fail to abide by the NMW are fined at the maximum levels.

It is a serious indictment on government that the Department of Labour has failed to enforce many of these requirements of the National Minimum Wage  Act and Regulations. 

Very few inspections have taken place to determine compliance with the NMW.  This is in spite of COSATU informing the department of the offending employers in the retail, hospitality, clothing, textile, security, agriculture, abattoir, restaurants and other sectors. 

The department has about 1400 labour inspectors, yet out of the more 2000 NMW disputes that have already been lodged with the CCMA, less than 1% of them were referred by Department of Labour inspectors.  The question is; what exactly is DOL doing to ensure that workers are not paid below the NMW?

The Department of Labour cannot be allowed to continue to treat these obstinate employers with kids gloves.  We expect the Department of Labour to target several large companies, especially in the security companies and retail sector, as well as farm owners and domestic worker employers who are still flouting the law. 

The federation feels strongly that the Department of Labour suffers from the dearth of leadership and poor management. COSATU will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister of Labour to address this intolerable situation.

The National Treasury also equally committed to amending tender requirements to ensure that companies that wish to do business with the state are in full compliance with the NMW Act. To date, this has not been done by the National Treasury. 

COSATU will be reminding this department which likes to projects itself as an epitome of the efficiency of their commitment to workers. They need to move with speed on this matter, and it is troubling that the National Treasury seems to only moves with speed when the rich and company owners are affected.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 14 March 2019