The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) says proposed minimum pay of R20 an hour or R3,500 a month will entrench "the apartheid wage structure" while amendments to the Labour Relations Act will limit the right of workers to strike.
Saftu says a living wage should be about R12,500 a month. Members of the country’s second-largest union federation marched to Parliament on Thursday to defend the "workers’ right to strike" and to "fight for a living wage".
The union federation is opposed to the implementation of amendments to the Labour Relations Act that would require unions to ballot their members before a strike.
The proposed amendments should be sent back to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) for review and Saftu was demanding it be given a seat at the council, it said.
Saftu is unhappy about the value-added tax (VAT) increase, saying the tax hike would worsen inequality and poverty. It has vowed to bring the economy to its knees if the government persists with plans to introduce the new minimum wage.
In March, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant announced that the government would not meet the May 1 deadline for the new wage. She said there was not enough time to process the new legislation as it was approved by the Cabinet and referred to Parliament only in November. Parliament had received high volumes of written and oral public submissions, said the minister.
Saftu insists that the national minimum wage [of R20 an hour for most workers] will do nothing except entrench the apartheid wage structure, keep millions of workers trapped in poverty and slave wages, widen income inequalities that have made our country the most unequal in the worldAndre Adams,
Saftu’s Western Cape secretary
But according to some reports, pressure from unions forced President Cyril Ramaphosa to call for the delay in implementing the new legislation. The national minimum wage project was driven by Ramaphosa when he was still deputy president.
The National Assembly, which approves legislation, is in recess.
The minimum-wage proposal would be reviewed yearly, except for domestic and farm workers, whose rate would be set at R15 and R18 an hour, respectively.
"Saftu insists that the national minimum wage [of R20 an hour for most workers] will do nothing except entrench the apartheid wage structure, keep millions of workers trapped in poverty and slave wages, widen income inequalities that have made our country the most unequal in the world," said Andre Adams, Saftu’s Western Cape secretary.
"Saftu has resolved to embark on rolling mass action to defend workers and communities from these neoliberal attacks," he said.
Saftu provincial deputy chairman Nyaniso Siyana said: "We will bring the economy of this country down to make them listen to us."
Cosatu protested outside Parliament to register its concern about corruption, the VAT increase, the water crisis in Cape Town, the poor public transport system and the delay in the implementation of the minimum wage.
"We are concerned about the delay in the implementation of the national minimum wage, which is supposed to undo the levels of slave wages in SA," said Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu’s Western Cape secretary.