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Cosatu’s last-minute decision not to sign an agreement on the national minimum wage was a curious move. There is a political undercurrent to it that is distinctly factional. The federation first mooted a national minimum wage in discussion documents ahead of its 2012 national conference and the journey to this point — where there is actually agreement not only on the idea of a minimum wage to tackle income inequality but on the level at which it will be set — has been a bumpy one. Its ally, the ANC, agreed in its 2014 election manifesto to "investigate the modalities" of the introduction of a national minimum wage. It was hardly a certainty that it would ever reach a stage where there would be broad agreement between labour, business and the government, even on the need for one. At the time, Cosatu was facing the deepest crisis in its 30-year history, which eventually led to a split in which its largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, was expelled. The ramificat...

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