EFF spurns minimum wage in National Assembly debate

The National Minimum Wage Bill was submitted before the National Assembly on Tuesday where it was debated and approved. It has now been sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. 

Labour minister Mildred Oliphant presented the Bill along with two other amended labour Bills, namely the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill. 

“Every journey starts often with a small step. The journey to address the plight of the lowest-paid workers reached a milestone,” Oliphant said in response to the Bill’s approval.

But the Bill is not without its detractors. Economic Freedom Fighters’ Thembinkosi Rawula said his party rejects the R3 500 proposal “with the contempt it deserves”.

The breakdown of the proposed national minimum wage is as follows: R20 an hour for most workers, R18 an hour for farm workers, R15 for domestic workers and R11 for Expanded Public Works Programme workers.

The EFF MP also raised the exclusion of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) from the process of passing the new legislation. The federation has been a vocal critic of the Bill.

On April 25, Saftu led thousands of people in a nationwide strike against the proposed minimum wage and other amendments to the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Saftu condemned the minimum wage, saying it was as an effort to entrench “the apartheid wage structure”.

Rawula said the fact that Saftu was refused access to make input in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) is reason enough to undermine the whole process of the council.

In a statement released at the beginning of April, Saftu decried its exclusion from Nedlac based on “invented admission requirements” which state that federations must be in existence for at least two years before being able to register.

“The federation is convinced that the move to exclude Saftu is not administrative, as claimed by the established federations, but a political ploy to find one excuse after another to block the affiliation of a new federation which will expose and oppose the class-collaborationist policies and sweetheart agreements with employers and government in Nedlac over the last period,” the statement said.

“Saftu has a legitimate dispute of interest in the national minimum wage and government should not have excluded Saftu as a federation. But also, the idea that such an important policy that will affect the lives of millions of workers can be agreed upon by a group of elites in Nedlac and some panel appointed by one person shows that at all times it will protect the interests of big business before workers and the poor,” Rawula said.

Oliphant rejected this position, saying that Saftu was not a member of Nedlac when the agreement was reached in February and that the federation only registered to join Nedlac in March.

The country’s other trade union federations — Cosatu, the Federation of Unions of South Africa and the National Council of Trade Unions — have all publicly backed the implementation the Bill.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
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