Committee’s passing of NMW Bill welcomed – COSATU

Federation says workers have fought for more than a hundred years for a national minimum wage in SA

COSATU welcomes the NCOP Select Committee’s passing of the National Minimum Wage & Labour Bills  today

7 August 2018

COSATU welcomes the NCOP Select Committee on Business and Economic Development’s adoption of the National Minimum Wage, Basic Conditions of Employment, Labour Relations and Labour Laws (Parental Leave) Amendment Bills today (Tuesday 07 August 2018).  This is a historic victory for millions of workers and their families.

Workers have fought for more than a hundred years for a national minimum wage in South Africa.  COSATU and its predecessor SACTU campaigned for it over many decades and it has been a key demand of the Freedom Charter since 1955. 

A minimum wage is the level below which no South African worker must be paid and it should be pointed out that it is not a living wage.  A living wage cannot be legislated, in fact no country has legislated a living wage.  That is something that unions and workers must campaign for, that government must work towards and that business must be compelled to do.

The minimum wage of R20 per hour will see the wages of 6.4 million South Africans rise and this is equal to 47% of workers and will directly benefit half the nation.  It will put more money in the pockets of millions of farm, domestic, retail, hospitality, restaurant, petrol, hairdressing, forestry, furniture, transport, cleaning and other vulnerable, exploited and impoverished workers.  This will help put food on the tables for millions and it will boost spending in the local economy and help spur economic growth.  This is exactly what it has done in the United States, Brazil, Germany and many other countries.  It will be a major tool in the fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Whilst we were not able to make all the changes we wanted to the legislation, COSATU is pleased with the bills and urges their speedy adoption by the National Council of Provinces and their ascension by the President into law.  Workers have waited too long for this historic moment and do not want to wait any longer and any further delays will only serve to demoralise workers and deny them the help they so badly need.

COSATU is pleased that the bills have been strengthened in Parliament and that farm and domestic workers will be guaranteed to reach 100% of the NMW within 2 years, that escalating penalties have been established for employers who repeatedly fail to pay a NMW and that those penalties will be paid to the workers. The bill also ensures that deductions from wages are limited to the BCEA provisions, that all workers will be covered by the NMW and that sectoral determinations that cover other conditions of employment have been secured.

COSATU is pleased that workers will soon enjoy 10 days paid parental and adoption leave, when their children are born and 10 weeks paid adoption leave when legally adopting a child 2 years and younger.  Workers have campaigned for this for many years.

On the Labour Laws and Labour Amendment bills the sole change to balloting before going on strike or lock outs is to clarify the definition of ballots as being conducted in secret.  This has been in the LRA since it was adopted in 1995.  For the past 23 years not one of these peace time martyrs have complained about it.  Today they cry for all who will listen.

COSATU unions are based upon workers’ control.  We are not afraid of democracy including balloting and unions belong to their members and their members must decide when to go on strike.  Besides there are no ballots in South Africa that are not conducted in secrecy, except those belonging to some tin pot dictators and self appointed life leaders.

The LRA Bill will in fact advance the cause of collective bargaining because it will empower the Minister to extend collective agreements where parties have not reached a 51% majority threshold but are sufficiently representative.  This will ensure that millions of unorganised, vulnerable and exploited outsourced, sub-contracted and labour broker workers will be covered by wage and other agreements. 

The LRA will protect the rights of workers to picket by providing a code of good practise for picketing rules.  This is important for thousands of workers in the industrial and retail sectors who have been harassed and intimidated by employers when picketing.

Lastly the LRA will also enable the CCMA to provide an advisory arbitration under certain conditions during strikes e.g. when negotiations have completely collapsed, violence has occurred etc.  Again this will assist workers who use strikes as a means to an end, not an end in itself.

COSATU is proud that it has forged a united front with our comrades in FEDUSA and NACTU to advance the needs and defend the rights of workers.  We are pleased that we were able to show the value of Nedlac as a platform for social dialogue with business, government and community.

COSATU appreciates the consistent support we received from President Ramaphosa on the quest for a minimum wage.  We are grateful for the support we have received from ANC Members of Parliament in passing these historic bills since some opposition parties have declared themselves enemies of a minimum wage.

Once the bills have been passed into law by the NCOP, COSATU will throw its weight into the campaign for a living wage, for National Health Insurance, Comprehensive Social Security, expanding free quality education, delivering reliable and safe public transport, accelerating land reform in particular for farm workers and most importantly the struggle to create permanent decent jobs for all South Africans.

Issued by Matthew Parks, Parliamentary Coordinator, COSATU, 7 August 2018