Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini Picture: THE SOWETAN
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini Picture: THE SOWETAN

Labour federation Cosatu has accused business of dragging its heels on the implementation of the national minimum wage, saying issues that had already been agreed to were now stalling talks.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini told Business Day the agreement that had been signed at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) was being challenged by business partners who were insisting on a four-hour minimum working day, among other contentious clauses.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa would be called on to intervene, Dlamini said.

The proposed legislation that sets the national minimum wage at R20 an hour was agreed to in February and is expected to come into effect in May 2018, but parties in a Nedlac task team set up for its finalisation are concerned about its slow progress.

Dlamini said business was neither honest nor willing to conclude the matter.

"Business in our view is always dragged into this [unwillingly]. They are not … honest and willing to get this matter done," Dlamini said.

Business was "largely" to blame for the delay. "Even right now when all has been agreed to, they are trying to get us to reverse on the issues that have been agreed on….

"We are not going to allow that," Dlamini said.

The national minimum wage is expected to bring relief to more than 5-million workers who earn below the R3,500 monthly threshold.

It also aims to boost sectoral determinations in vulnerable industries such as farming and domestic work, which will be included in the covered groups after the implementation date.

Labour has demanded that workers be paid for a minimum six hours daily, even in cases where productivity is disrupted.

Another stumbling block related to business exemptions for those who maintained they could not afford the minimum wage, Dlamini said.

While the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), which is also part of the labour caucus at Nedlac, is equally dissatisfied with the slow pace of the process, its chief negotiator, Johan van Niekerk, is confident the process will be wrapped up in time despite the challenges.

"The minimum hours is the issue we could not agree on. We have a different view to business. We have referred that to the panel of experts and they came forward with a recommendation [that] was not acceptable…. We went back and said our position is that we are remotivating [our stance]."

Fedusa had the government’s support that they would eventually achieve something "that is acceptable to all parties. It may not be acceptable to business eventually, but we will make several sacrifices," he said.

Business Leadership SA (BLSA) CEO Bonang Mohale denied that business was delaying talks. The constituency was committed to the urgent implementation of the national minimum wage, especially in the light "of the fact that all BLSA members pay far in excess of the [minimum wage]", Mohale said. "We will do everything possible to expedite the urgent implementation" of the national minimum wage, he said.

Nedlac could not provide detail on the state of talks but said regular meetings were being held.

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