Picture: GCIS
Picture: GCIS

The Department of Labour has introduced draft bills in Parliament providing for the national minimum wage agreed upon through lengthy negotiations within the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

Two bills, the National Minimum Wage Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill, have been tabled.

The National Minimum Wage Bill proposes that a national minimum wage, as agreed in Nedlac, of R20 an hour take effect from May 1 2018. The rate is included in a schedule to the bill so that it can be adjusted annually.

Exceptions have been provided for the first year.

The minimum wage for farmworkers will be R18 an hour, for domestic workers R15 an hour and for workers in expanded public works programmes R11 an hour.

Provision is also made for learnership allowances.

The bill specifies that the national minimum wage will be obligatory and cannot be varied by contract, collective agreement or law, except a law amending the act.

"The national minimum wage constitutes a term of the worker’s contract except to the extent that the contract provides for a more favourable wage," the memorandum to the bill explains.

"In terms of the bill it is an unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally alter hours of work or other conditions of employment in implementing the minimum wage."

The memorandum clarifies that the minimum wage does not include the payment of allowances for example for transport, tools, food or accommodation as well as for payments in kind for board or lodging, tips, bonuses and gifts.

The bill proposes the establishment of a 10-person National Minimum Wage Commission to annually review the minimum wage and make recommendations to the labour minister, who must determine an adjustment by March 31 each year.

The commission will be made up of an independent chairperson appointed by the minister, three members nominated by organised business, three members nominated by organised community, three members nominated by organised labour and three independent experts appointed by the minister.

The commission will also be required to investigate the impact of the national minimum wage on the economy. It will have a secretariat and be funded by money appropriated by Parliament.

The key amendments introduced in the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill are to repeal the provisions dealing with the making of sectoral determinations and the powers and functions of the Employment Commission; extend the provisions for monitoring and enforcement by the labour inspectorate to apply the national minimum wage and unemployment insurance; and to extend the jurisdiction of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to include enforcement procedures and claims for underpayment in terms of the act, the national minimum wage, unemployment insurance and claims arising from contracts or collective agreements.

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