This is a slave wage disguised as a NMW – EFF

Fighters say R20 per hour or R3 500 will not restore humanity and dignity of black workers

EFF statement on decision to vote against the National Minimum Wage Bill in Parliament

30 May 2018

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) voted against the government efforts to institutionalise and legitimize slave wage disguised as a national minimum wage. At the first EFF National Assembly in July 2013, our founding manifesto adopted seven cardinal pillars. Cardinal pillar number five says there must be massive protected industrial development to create millions of sustainable jobs, including the introduction of minimum wages in order to close the wage between the rich and the poor, close the apartheid wage gap.

The EFF founding manifesto went further to say the state should introduce, through legislation, minimum wages, which will better the living conditions of the people. And we said areas that need immediate attention is mine workers, farm workers, private security guards, domestic workers, cleaners, petrol attendants, waiters and waitresses, and retail stores workers.

The demand of R4 500 national minimum wage across the board for all full-time workers, we also called for sectoral minimum wage of, 

a. R12 500 per month for mineworkers,

b. R5 000 per month for farm works,

c. R6 500 per month for manufacturing workers,

d. R5 000 per month for retail workers,

e. R7 000 per months for builders,

f. R5 000 per month for petrol attendants,

g. R4 500 per month for cleaners,

h. R5 000 per month for domestic workers,

i. R5 000 per month for private security guards,

j. R4 500 per month for waiters and waitresses.

In his first debate during the State of Nation Address (SONA), Commander in Chief and President of the EFF Julius Malema called for Parliament to legislate for R12 500 minimum wage for mine workers, and also demanded a Parliamentary Commission on the Conditions and Remunerations of workers. In September 2014, the EFF tabled a draft resolution for the National Assembly to resolve on these demands, and the African National Congress (ANC) rejected our draft resolution.

As early as 2011, it was evident that a national minimum wage below the median level of R3 033 constitutes poverty yet majority of workers and their children now facing the prospect of institutionalize poverty and slave wage for the rest of their lives. It was on this basis that we rejected the initial the announced proposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa for a national minimum wage of R3 500 in November 2016. The EFF recognized that the proposal favoured business at the expense of workers and will not lead to the desired resolution of the problem of inequality. 

In 2013 at the beginning of Nedlac negotiations, labour had demanded a national minimum wage of R4 500 per months and business proposed a R2 000 national minimum wage. If we take inflation in the last 5 years which takes the R2 000 proposed national minimum wage to over R2 500 estimate in 2018, the increase in fuel price, VAT increase and general increase in standard of living, business is the biggest winner of the national minimum wage bill while workers are the biggest losers. 

The EFF rejected the national minimum wage bill in the National Assembly because we recognize that South Africa’s inequalities are a result of the wage gap between the overpaid and the exploited workers. This means that levels of underemployment are at a crisis level because an absolute majority of workers are not properly paid. It is for this and many reasons that when we called for a national minimum wage, we called for a national minimum wage that must go beyond a narrow purpose of establishing a minimum floor wage below which no worker can be paid

The motivation for such a socio-economic policy instrument must be understood in the context of more than a 100 years of institutionalized slave wage, which have condemned black workers and their families to abject poverty and misery. Slave wages has dehumanized black workers as early as mid-1800s through legislation such as the Masters and Servants Act of 1856, which made it illegal for black workers to even consider themselves humans. It was through legislation that slave wage was institutionalized and stripped black workers of their humanity and dignity. 

R20 per hour or R3 500 will not restore the humanity and dignity of black workers, in particular women workers, let alone be decent enough to afford basic necessities for survival. While we don’t oppose the legislation of national minimum wage in principle. 

The EFF rejects the R3 500 proposal with the contempt it deserves. Unless the proposed legislation is genuine, aggressive and speedy resolution to exert discipline on private capital which has taken advantage of the lives of workers. The EFF will not support such a legislation.

Issued by Mbuyinseni Ndlozi, National Spokesperson, EFF, 30 May 2018