Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

There will be no blanket exemptions for economic sectors from the national minimum wage, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant clarified on Thursday.

DA labour spokesman Ian Ollis wanted to know whether there would be a blanket exemption for the clothing and blanket sections of the textile industry to which the minister said "No" in a written reply. She said blanket exemptions would "go against the grain of what is intended with this policy instrument".

Oliphant said the national minimum wage is intended to ensure that the benefits of growth are more equitably shared and to address poverty and inequality. For this reason, it targets as a wide a range of sectors as possible.

The minister was also asked by DA MP Michael Bagraim whether the introduction of a national minimum wage would result in mass retrenchments from businesses belonging to bargaining councils which had set minimum hourly wage rates below R20 an hour. Oliphant replied there was no conclusive evidence that the introduction of the national minimum wage would have this outcome.

"The R20 per hour level is a well-considered position based on thorough research and analysis. However, we are aware of the risk of possible job losses and this was carefully weighed before agreeing on the minimum levels," she said.

To mitigate this risk there will be exemption provisions for those employers who can demonstrate they will not be able to pay the national minimum wage.

Bagraim also wanted to know whether the government has considered limiting the application of the national minimum wage only for those sectors not covered by wage regulations and collective bargaining.

The minister said such a proposal is not under consideration. She noted that the wages of some workers covered by wage regulations and collective bargaining are not at the level of the national minimum wage level as agreed on by stakeholders: "The national minimum wage agreement states that all sectoral determinations, collective agreements, bargaining council agreements and individual contracts of employment must comply with the National Minimum Wage Act at the time of implementation."

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