Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The release of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) advisory panel report, which includes a proposed monthly minimum wage of R3,500, has elicited a mixed reaction from trade unions and political parties.

The ANC welcomed the report, which was released on Sunday, saying recommendations were “sound, credible and clearly supported by clear evidence, including technical submissions” made by business, labour, government and communities.

“Now that a quantum has been proposed, Nedlac constituencies need to have an opportunity to engage with the proposals contained in the report, including the proposed level of the national minimum wage,” spokesman Zizi Kodwa said.

“The constituencies are urged to proceed with urgency so that finality and certainty can be achieved.”

The ANC said it was particularly pleased that Nedlac was about to finalise a package that would reduce prolonged and violent strikes.

In contrast, the EFF rejected the proposed national minimum wage of R3,500 a month, saying that it favoured business at the expense of workers. The party also said the proposal was against the exclusion of domestic and farm workers.

“The proposal will not lead to the desired resolution of the problem of inequality, instead it is going to institutionalise these inequalities at low poverty wages,” spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said.

The EFF had tabled a minimum wage of R4,500 a month in Parliament based on figures from 2014.

“Any minimum wage that is below R4,500 will not make any difference to the lives of workers or the resolution of inequality in wages and actual living conditions,” Ndlozi said.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), which recently announced that it was breaking away from labour federation Cosatu, welcomed the agreement on a proposed national minimum wage, but was against the amount of R3,500 a month.

Fawu proposed a national minimum wage of R5,700 a month.

“We are concerned that the proposed figure of R3,500 seems to be ignorant of or indifferent to this country as the widest unequal society on earth, in terms of income distribution, and with abnormal poverty and unemployment rate given its stage of economic development and endowment of natural resources and mineral deposits, such as 70% of the world’s platinum,” general secretary Katishi Masemola said.

“Therefore, we will push for the [national minimum wage] to be as low as R5,700 a month and for that, as Fawu, we will not only make submissions but wage campaigns because this country cannot afford to be the case study of treble-challenges and social ills of only 20% in quality [private] healthcare, selective access to education to the elites (5% of the population) as those from poor and working class backgrounds and so-called missing-middle are either financially excluded or even academically excluded.”

Exemptions

Farmers’ group Agri SA welcomed the proposed exemption for the farming sector.

Agri SA called for “for in-depth research and consultation with all agricultural role-players‚ especially farmers in drought-stricken areas”.

It chairman, Neil Hamman‚ said on Monday that “whilst labour cost is a major cost driver‚ a contented labour force is equally essential for optimum production”.

“Compromising the intricate balance between wages and the sustainability of farming enterprises will, however, result in unintended consequences such as job losses and mechanisation‚” he said.

Hamman said: “Agri SA welcomes the fact that struggling farmers still will have access to section 50 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act that makes provision for exemptions from ministerial determinations.

“We also welcome the fact that the expert advisory committee recommended that a lower mean apply to domestic and farm workers‚ depending on the circumstances.”

Worst of both worlds

The Institute of Race Relations says R3,500 a month it too low to really improve the circumstances of existing workers, but is high enough that it will create obstacles to job creations and the establishment of small businesses.

With TMG Digital

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