Unions slam proposed 5% increase to national minimum wage

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Workers gather protesting for a higher minimum wage. (Amanda Khoza, News24 - file photo)
Workers gather protesting for a higher minimum wage. (Amanda Khoza, News24 - file photo)

Unions have slammed a proposed increase to the National Minimum Wage, branding it "totally unjustifiable". 

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Federation of Unions South Africa and the National Council of Trade Unions said in a joint statement on Tuesday they rejected the National Minimum Wage Commission's recommendation to the Minister for Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, for a 5% increase. 

"Considering that the NMW has not been increased for three years, the proposed increased is totally unjustifiable and totally insulting to the noble ideals of the legislation that was expected to eject millions of workers out of the poverty trap. The NMW amount of R20 for workers in general, R18 for farm workers, R15 for domestic workers and R11 for EPWP was agreed to in March 2017. It is now 2020," the statement said. 

Organised labour wrote to the Commission in 2019 motivating for an increase that would take into account inflation since 2017, the statement added. Unions are asking for an increase of at least 12.5%. 

The unions also want farm, domestic and public works employees to to receive higher increases, in order to narrow the gap between them and the National Minimum Wage. 

Agriculture workers and domestic workers earn R18 and R15 per hour respectively at a minimum, versus the national minimum of R20 per hour. 

Stakeholders in government, labour and business, represented in the National Economic Development and Labour Council, first signed the national minimum wage agreement in February 2017. The bill was approved by Cabinet later in 2017, and President Cyril Ramaphosa signed it into law in 2018. 

The wage deal was some four years in the making, and followed the signing of the Ekurhuleni Declaration by business, government, labour and civil society, represented at the National Economic Development Council in November 2014. Organised labour had been calling for a national minimum wage for years previously.

    In the Tuesday statement, which was issued by Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla, unions called for intervention from Nxesi, saying the value of the wage was being "massively eroded" by inflation. 

    "Whilst the Minister cannot afford to delay giving impoverished workers an increase, he needs to intervene with the NMW Commission immediately to ensure that an additional increase comes into effect in 2020 to take into account the impact of 2017 and 2018’s inflation upon the value of the NMW," Pamla said.

    *Correction: The headline of this article has been amended to make clear that the opposition was by certain unions, and not Nedlac. 

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