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Minimum wage set to increase

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“Contrary to popular belief, farmers do care for their workers and do want them to have better lives. But making it more difficult to employ more workers is counter-productive.”

THE MINIMUM wage in South Africa is set to increase by roughly 3.8% from March 1, 2020 – far below the level demanded by unions.

The new national minimum wage will be R20.76 per hour, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi said in a notice published on Monday.

That is an increase of 3.8% on the previous R20 which came into effect on January 1, 2019.

Certain categories of workers have lower minimum salaries, with the increases ranging from between 3.77% and 3.818% for the different sectors.

Organised labour at the National Economic Development and Labour Council – a bargaining forum that has government, business, labour and community representation – called for wages raised by at least 12.5%. The unions wanted the pay to take account of inflation in the three years since the initial agreement was reached on wages.

Though the minimum wage was implemented in January 2019, the law that brought it into effect was approved in November 2017 and, at the time, the R20-per-hour number was set. The amounts were agreed in March 2017 already, three years before the new increases come into effect.

In a joint statement in January, Cosatu, Fedusa, and Nactu described a recommendation of a 5% across-the-board increase by the National Minimum Wage Commission as “shocking and callous”.

The new minimum wages that will come into effect on March 1 are: R20.76 per hour for work not covered by a special determination; R15.57 per hour for domestic workers; between R20.83 and R22.84 for contact cleaning staff depending on the geographic area; R18.68 for farm workers; and R11.42 for workers in government’s Expanded Public Works Programme.

Against

The Transvaal Agricultural Union (TLU SA) said yesterday that it was against a minimum wage system in South Africa, adding that it contributed to keeping people outside of work and debilitates the economy.

“The Department of Labour this week officially announced the increased minimum wage which will come into effect on March 1, 2020. The increase of 3.8% brings the minimum wage for farmworkers to R18.68 per hour, but is far below the 12.5% unions were holding out for. In contrast, the unemployment rate for the fourth quarter in 2019 stood at 29.1% last week. Around 40% of South Africans between the ages of 15 and 34 are unemployed,” Louis Meintjes, the president of TLU SA, said yesterday.

“The ANC and its alliance partners do not care about the economy or unemployment in the country, but only act in the interest of their members. The limitation of a minimum wage deprives a person who is willing to negotiate for their wage, of a job opportunity.

“If someone is willing to work as a farmworker for R2 500, for example, instead of the forced R3 360 per month because that is what the farmer can afford, you are giving that person the dignity not to be dependent on a grant or begging to survive.

“When more than one person in a family can work, the combined income of that family is, of course, higher than when only one person in the family can work for a higher rate.

“Contrary to popular belief, farmers do care for their workers and do want them to have better lives. But making it more difficult to employ more workers is counter-productive.”

Meintjes added that the focus on “absurd wages impairs the employer who cannot afford it, the employee who cannot be employed and the economy which doesn’t show local growth”.

“A minimum wage system can only be a useful tool for upliftment in a stable economy. With the current South African policies and economy, it only contributes to unemployment and dependency on social grants.”