Breathing space: Nomfunelo Mbathane, left, and colleague  Nosipiwo Ntaopane expect the minimum wage will change their lives for the better. Picture: YOLISWA SOBUWA
Breathing space: Nomfunelo Mbathane, left, and colleague Nosipiwo Ntaopane expect the minimum wage will change their lives for the better. Picture: YOLISWA SOBUWA

The implementation of the national minimum wage could be postponed after interested parties warned that the process to give effect to the policy was in danger of not passing constitutional muster.

They have cautioned that if the legislation was rushed through Parliament, it risked being sent back by the Constitutional Court. Now, they have requested that implementation be postponed by at least two months to avoid "humiliation".

The government was planning to enact the bill, giving effect to the national minimum wage in April, with May 1 earmarked for its implementation.

However, indications are that the outstanding legislative processes to be covered in the weeks remaining before the deadline require more time.

MPs and trade unionists have told Business Day it would be "madness" if the portfolio committee on labour did not allocate more time for the consideration of public submissions made on the bill, which was discussed in Parliament earlier this week.

DA MP Michael Bagraim, who serves on the committee, said the national minimum wage was the most important piece of legislation for workers in the country since democracy and he was disappointed with how the bill was being handled.

Only 15 minutes have been allocated for oral submissions and 40 minutes for responses and questions by MPs.

Only 25 of the 40 contributors who made submissions applied to make oral presentations in Parliament and the committee expected to conclude the process by Friday.

The chairperson of the portfolio committee on labour could not be reached for comment.

"It’s impossible for us to finish on time and it’s not fair to the working public to rush this through without taking a careful look," Bagraim said.

"The people who made submissions did a lot of work and put together good submissions. I am supposed to be trusted with oversight when I have not even gone through all the documents and fact-checked the contents," he said.

The EFF has written to the labour committee chairperson asking that more time be allocated for the process.

Before the bill giving effect to the national minimum wage reached Parliament this week — along with the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and the Labour Relations Amendment Bill — labour unions and academia flagged flaws in the draft legislation.

Among these was the definition of workers that excluded independent contractors.

The Department of Labour told Parliament it would change the error, but there were still issues on which the interested parties disagreed. Stakeholders said a postponement would allow time for the contentious issues to be thrashed out to avoid "humiliation".

The Presidency did not answer questions about a possible postponement.

The Department of Labour could not guarantee the deadline would be met, saying the process was now up to Parliament.

Consultation was a constitutional requirement and "we do not want a situation where things are not done accordingly", ministerial spokesman Sithembele Tshwete said.

mahlakoanat@businesslive.co.za

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