Minimum wage gets a majority thumbs down

2014-02-16 14:00

The call for a national minimum wage has made a comeback after being dropped from the ANC government’s programme after 1994 in favour of sectoral determinations.

The national minimum wage was one of the explicit labour-related demands in the Freedom Charter of 1955, alongside a 40-hour working week, paid annual leave and sick leave for all workers, as well as maternity leave on full pay for all working mothers.

The existing sectoral minimum wages average at slightly more than R2?000 a month, but research based on 2007 labour market data demonstrated that up to 45% of workers covered by these determinations received less than that.

ANC: Yes

» In the ruling party’s election manifesto, it promises to “investigate the modalities” of introducing the national minimum wage, indicating it’s really just a question of how, rather than if. The minimum wage would be “one of the key mechanisms to reduce income inequality”, says the ruling party.

Last month, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant shed some light on what the ANC means by “modalities”, saying one option is to use a pending amendment to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act to issue a new “umbrella” sectoral determination.

This would cover anyone not already covered by sectoral determinations instead of actually creating a uniform national minimum.

DA: No

» “We are opposed to the national minimum wage because it kills jobs. They [ANC] are killing competition in provinces that are not well developed,” said Kenneth Mubu, the DA’s shadow minister of labour.

Mubu explained that the implementation of the national minimum wage would hinder provincial competition and growth because different regions had different levels of economic development.

When asked about the DA’s stance on sectoral determinations, he said the DA had a “flexible approach to labour legislation”, which means wages should be determined by employers and employees.

Cope: No

» The Congress of the People (Cope) says that the national minimum wage “is not a South ­African invention; it exists in other countries to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers”. The party also does not support a basic ­minimum wage.

“Cope believes that people should be paid a living wage. However, we do ­believe that people should be remunerated for the value they add in society. The government exists in order to ­create an environment where the playing field can be levelled so individuals can reach their full potential.”

EFF: No

» Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) commissar Floyd Shivambu says that “sector-specific minimum wages should be legislated as law for those sectors.

It is not practical and does not make economic sense to set an overriding minimum wage across sectors because there are different interests and practicalities involved. Mine workers should have the R12?500 minimum wage Marikana workers were killed for and that can broadly apply to all sectors.”

The role of collective bargaining was to improve on the minimum wages set by law, he said.

Agang: Maybe

» Agang doesn’t seem to have a clear-cut standpoint on minimum wages.

Professor Mills Soko, Agang SA’s policy director, said in an email sent to City Press: “Agang’s focus is on ensuring that we move into higher-skill and higher-wage environments, where the stresses and strains of conflicts around minimum wages become things of the past.”

Soko said that the level of enforcement of minimum wages was generally low.

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