/ 5 July 2019

CCMA cases pile up with new law

The CCMA received thousands of cases after the new wage law came into effect in January.
The CCMA received thousands of cases after the new wage law came into effect in January. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), has recieved 1 073 minimum wage referrals for the first half of this year pushing its overall caseload to over 100 000 complaints. Its work also includes 8 792 cases involving basic conditions of employment.

But CCMA director Cameron Morajane says it has “put measures in place to be able to process referrals within the statutory 30-day period, including early engagement with the parties through our pre-conciliation process”.

Of the minimum wage cases, “a total of 17% arbitration awards were issued”, he says. That means 182 cases have been dealt with so far. He says there is no backlog of cases.

The department of labour’s chief director responsible for labour relations, Thembinkosi Mkalipi, says not all companies are complying with the minimum wage law. “If your question is whether all employers are complying with the law, the answer [is] ‘No’. That is why there are cases at the CCMA.” There are fines for not complying with minimum wage regulations. Where an employer is considered in breach of the law, the matter is referred to the CCMA for a ruling. This may involve the commission requiring the employer, for instance, to pay double or thrice the minimum wage plus interest for a prescribed period. The details of offenders may also be published on the department’s website.

The department says it regularly holds inspections and “employers that are found [to be] noncompliant are given a chance to rectify, failing which we refer them to the CCMA. This is happening currently,” says chief director for statutory services Fikiswa Mncanca.

The national minimum wage came into effect on January 1. It stipulates a minimum wage of R20 an hour, or R3 500 a month. Employers unable to comply can apply for exemptions. To qualify for an exemption, employers need to submit their financial information and show that they have consulted affected employees.

Between January and June this year, 385 applications were received, of which 247 were approved, affecting 45 051 workers, said Mkalipi.

In his State of the Nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “The national minimum wage has been in place for six months and the early indications are that many companies are complying.”

As of June, the commission says it has received 1 073 disputes relating to claims of alleged noncompliance in terms of the National Minimum Wage Act. In addition, 201 cases were received dealing with compliance orders and applications for certification of written arbitration awards.

According to the department, sectors that are on the wrong side of the law are manufacturing, hospitality, community, wholesale and retail.

“On domestic [workers] we normally receive complaints that employers are not paying the minimum wages. And when you follow up, in most instances it is those employers that are not registered as employers with the Unemployment Insurance Fund,” says Mncanca.

Protecting employees at people’s homes can be tricky because access can be difficult. “In this case we rely on employees to report and the department will conduct advocacy sessions to ensure awareness,” she says. “We believe as the department that there is no crisis; we have this under control. We make sure that even with complaints they are attended to within the set timeframes.”

The National Minimum Wage Commission is set to conclude research on the effect of the minimum wage on employment, poverty, inequality and wage differentials by the end of September.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has opposed the minimum wage, calling it “a poverty wage”.

“The wage is not a living wage and that is why we’ve always rejected it,” said spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.

“The minimum wage does nothing to deal with the race-based unequal wage created during the apartheid era. The whole thing is designed to benefit big business.”

Union federation Cosatu, which has supported the minimum wage, acknowledges that the implementation has both successes and difficulties. Most employers are abiding by the new regulations and this means “significant increases in wages for millions of workers”, according to the union’s parliamentary co-ordinator, Matthew Parks.

Tshegofatso Mathe is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the M&G