National Minimum Wage must be finalised before end of year – COSATU

Federation says govt and big business must adopt a sense of urgency in implementation of NMW

There must be urgency in finalising a meaningful National Minimum Wage by the end of this year

20 October 2016 

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is demanding that both government and big business must adopt a sense of urgency in finalising the implementation of a meaningful National Minimum Wage by the end of this year. Organised Labour will raise its concerns at Nedlac, in the meeting of the Committee of Principals (COP) ,on the 22nd October, this coming Saturday, about the length of time it is taking to finalise introduction of a meaningful National Minimum Wage in South Africa. We are now well over a year beyond the July 2015 deadline that was set by the 2014 Ekurhuleni Summit for the finalisation of this matter.

The COP on June 25th 2016 agreed on two critical points relating to the National Minimum Wage: Firstly that we should begin implementation of the NMW from December 2016; and secondly that the Deputy President would appoint a NMW Advisory Panel ,which would report to the COP within 70 days, and that in the interim negotiations would be suspended.

After some delays in the appointment of the Panel, the Panel was requested to report to a COP in mid-October. The COP is now meeting on 22nd October to receive the report. However, indications are that the Panel has not completed its report, and that only a progress report will be submitted to the COP this coming Saturday.

Interactions with the Advisory Panel have been positive, and we get the clear impression that the Panel has taken its mandate seriously. However, we are very concerned about the prospect of further delays, and are determined to defend and take forward the COP mandate that the NMW is implemented from December 2016.

Developments in the country reinforce the importance of expediting the implementation of a meaningful National Minimum Wage: The recently released Labour Market Dynamics, published by Stats SA, reveal that 50% of workers in South Africa earned below R3100 in 2015. This reinforces the findings of the Wits National Minimum Wage Research Initiative that over 50% of full time workers (or 5.5 million workers) earn wages, which are too low to bring them and their dependants out of poverty. A meaningful National Minimum Wage needs to be pitched at a level which addresses this disgrace of working poverty, and the unacceptably high levels of wage inequality in our society.

Furthermore ,the recent outrage in society about the obscene salaries , which CEOs like Whitey Basson (paid R100.1 million a year) award themselves, while workers in the same companies are paid starvation wages of less than R3000 per month, has again focused attention on the need to deal decisively with the unacceptable pay gaps in our society. A meaningful National Minimum Wage must be an important element of a new wage policy which begins to recognise the dignity of every worker in our society, and overcomes the legacy of apartheid wage structures.

It is in this context that we will be calling on the COP on Saturday to expedite the finalisation of these negotiations, and will intensify mobilisation of society to demand this. Reasonable expectations of society are now that this matter must urgently be brought to finality.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 20 October 2016