Minimum wage bill unlikely to be finalised this year - lawyer

Johannesburg - The National Minimum Wage Bill is unlikely to be finalised this year as further consultation was needed to make it pass a Constitutional test, a labour lawyer said on Friday.

Last month government put brakes on the legislation which would have seen the implementation of a minimum wage, prompting criticism from labour unions.

The bill was expected to be passed before the May 1 deadline and would make R20-per-hour a basic minimum pay for workers.

“It is  highly unlikely that the bill would be finalised this year, I would estimate that it would be ready next year,” said Osborne Molatudi, a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells.

“It is important that the bill is able to pass a Constitutional test, so that there are none or fewer challenges afterwards,” said Molatudi adding that submissions around areas of concern were critical.

In order to bring the national minimum wage into full effect, Parliament had to deliberate on and pass the National Minimum Wage Bill, the Labour Relations Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill.

Molatudi said there was still a concern from business that the R20-per-hour pay would be too much for small enterprises, while labour felt it was too low.

He said there were still sticking issues around regulation, and sectoral determination and exemption from paying minimum wage.

Some stakeholders have raised concern over the absence of protective measures for workers who fall under sectoral determination, once their wage negotiation mechanisms fall away in three years'.

Last month, the Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant concluded that there were still too many processes to take place before the draft law was passed.

The draft bill aims to replace sectoral determinations with bargaining councils, which Molatudi said would form part of fresh submissions.

“They cannot go ahead and implement a bill when there is still submission going on,” he said.

Government says the National Minimum Wage Bill is aimed at tackling inequality and poverty, in a country with a 27.7 % unemployment rate.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) had expressed disappointed at the government’s failure to meet the deadline for the national minimum wage, but stated the delay presented a chance to perfect the bill.


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