Labour law expert to head up minimum wage commission

Labour law expert, Professor Adriaan van der Walt has been appointed as the newly established National Minimum Wage Commission’s chairperson.

According to a statement issued by the department of labour on Wednesday, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant appointed the inaugural members of the commission following a consultation with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

The commission was established as part of the National Minimum Wage Act gazetted on November 27. It is a critical mechanism to ensure the wage threshold keeps pace with inflation and does not impact on employment figures.

It will take over the functions of the Employment Conditions Commission that has been presiding on the sectoral determinations, the department said.

The minister of labour appoints the chairperson and three independent experts after consultation with the Nedlac and each constituency there, business, community and labour nominate three members.

Van der Walt was previously the chairperson of the Employment Conditions Commission which advised the minister of labour on sectoral wage determinations and the effect of government policies on employment. He is also the head of the labour and social security unit at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

Other members include independent experts Professor Imraan Valodia, Dr Neva Makgetla and Dr Sarah Mosoetsa.

Business is represented by Kaizer Moyane, Jonathan Goldberg and Jahni de Villiers of Business Unity South Africa. Labour representatives include Edward Thobejane of the National Council of Trade Unions, Solly Phetoe of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and Trenton Esley of the Federation of Unions of South Africa.

Community representatives include Isobel Frye of the Financial Sector Coalition Campaign, Conti Matlakala of the Women’s National Coalition and Tumelo Zwane of the South African Youth Council.

The National Minimum Wage, implemented from January 1 stipulates that all employees must be paid at least R20 per hour, farmworkers and domestic workers R18 and R15 per hour respectively, while Expanded Public Works participants receive R11 an hour.

Some of the commission's functions is to review the national minimum wage, investigate the phasing-in of a higher basic wage for domestic and farmworkers, advising the minister on sectoral determinations and report annually to the minister about the impact of the national minimum wage on the economy.

The term of office for the members of the commission is for a maximum period of five years but members may be re-appointed. The members of the commission serve on a part-time basis with the budget coming from the labour department.

The minimum wage follows a sometimes fraught four-year negotiation process between social partners at Nedlac. A key promise in the ANC’s 2014 election manifesto was an investigation into the modalities of a basic wage threshold.

The commission will have its first meeting in February. 

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