Error: Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant earlier this year described the exclusion of agreements previously reached as an ‘erroneous oversight’. Picture: SUPPLIED
Error: Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant earlier this year described the exclusion of agreements previously reached as an ‘erroneous oversight’. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Department of Labour is undermining the draft legislation on the minimum wage by ignoring instructions from the parliamentary portfolio committee, a labour think tank at Wits University said on Tuesday.

This would not be the first time the department has bungled the drafting of the critical legislation aimed at improving the lives of more than 6-million South Africans earning less than the envisaged minimum wage rate of R20 per hour.

Earlier in 2018, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant described the exclusion of agreements on the bill by organised labour, the government and business at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) as an "erroneous oversight" by state lawyers.

The committee referred the bill to the department in April for corrections after public submissions. However, experts at the Wits University National Minimum Wage Research Initiative said the department had not effected the changes, resulting instead in the dilution of the bill.

The weakened sections included the reinstatement of the role of sectoral determinations and an agreement to include a two-year deadline by which domestic and agricultural worker levels must be raised to the minimum wage level, the think-tank said.

Now the department has described the initiative’s concerns as "incorrect and misleading" without providing the basis thereof. Department of Labour spokesman Teboho Thejane said that the department had considered all the inputs and "shared them with the lawmakers and handed [it] to the portfolio committee to finalise the parliamentary process".

While committee chairwoman Sharome van Schalkwyk did not answer questions sent to her on Tuesday, Business Day understands that she had requested the department to respond to the matter and that the committee’s input is reflected in the bill.

The committee is scheduled to interrogate each clause of the minimum wage bill on Wednesday, although it is unclear whether the contentious contents would be presented as drafted by the department.

"The Department of Labour, which played a dominant role in the redrafting process, has, in a number of instances, either ignored the letter or spirit of decisions taken by the portfolio committee," the initiative’s Dr Gilad Isaacs said.

"This follows their selective presentation of certain issues to the committee suggesting a pursuit of particular outcomes that ignore critical concerns raised by the public and social partners, and thereby undermining the ability of the committee to conduct a balanced engagement on the bills before them," he said.

mahlakoanat@businesslive.co.za

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