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There was something ironic about this week’s signing by all the social partners — except Cosatu — of the new accord on the national minimum wage. It was, after all, Cosatu which had long pushed for a national minimum wage, mooting it for the first time ahead of its 2012 national conference. The trade union federation’s last-minute decision to hold back from signing therefore looked like a classic case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The excuse offered by the Cosatu negotiators was that they needed time to consult with the federation’s central executive committee — a somewhat weak excuse given that there is provision for special sittings of the committee if urgent mandates are needed. This is not the first time the federation has balked at the last minute. The release of the report of the national minimum wage committee by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at Nedlac last year was delayed because Cosatu didn’t want it made public at all. The timid approach to signing on t...

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