18 January, 2016
Possible Relief from National Minimum Wage Proposals for Forestry and Agriculture
- Labour Minister Mildred
Oliphant is worried about the number of retrenchments that might follow after
the implementation of the national minimum wage, which labour federation Cosatu
is seeking to implement as early as January.
This comes in the same week Oliphant
presented her report to an ANC meeting at Luthuli House to seek guidance on the
matter from, among others, President Jacob Zuma.
Oliphant said that what was left now
was simply to agree on what the figure should be. Trade unions want an
immediate agreement and implementation of a minimum wage, but business has been
accused of stalling and not attending meetings to finalise talks with all
Oliphant told City Press that employers
already had a negative attitude towards government's plan for a minimum wage, a
situation that necessitated trade unions to be honest when considering how much
the national minimum wage should be.
"I'm very concerned that inflation
could shoot up and unemployment and retrenchments could go sky-high.
"What's happening is that it's not just
the [amount of] R4 500 called for by Cosatu; others are saying it should be R12
500. Initially, there were those saying it should be R7 000, but they dropped
that figure," she said.
"So [the unions] must be honest when
they look at these figures because we should +not create a situation where
workers will be retrenched because of the attitude of employers in this
Oliphant said employers could agree on
a figure, but were likely to do an about-turn and come up with a package to
retrench workers by saying they could not afford to pay them the agreed amount.
She said that at the same time as
negotiations on the national minimum wage continued, government was mindful of
a possible recession.
Currently, there is no agreement about
the figure, with Cosatu crying foul about business frustrating the process and
leading to unnecessary delays.
Oliphant said she was waiting for
research reports, which would also look into whether workers in "ultralow-wage
sectors" such as farming and domestic work could be excluded, as happens in
At its national congress this week,
Cosatu decided to minimise the exclusions and exemptions from the national
It was agreed that, as a compromise,
domestic workers, farm workers and even those employed in public works
projects, should start off with slightly lower wages of about 80% of the
general minimum wage.
But the stalemate at Nedlac, the
consensus-seeking body between government, labour, business and civil society,
has irked Cosatu so much that it wants the ANC to take a stronger stance on
what it calls "delaying tactics and foot-dragging" by business.
Cosatu's declaration reads: "The
national minimum wage is a matter of life and death for workers. The conduct of
refusing to discuss the level of the national minimum wage is entirely
unacceptable and will be strongly opposed.
"If the deadlock is not satisfactorily
resolved by December 4, we will engage in mass mobilisation to ensure that what
has not been agreed in boardrooms will be resolved in the streets and
Cosatu has also threatened to initiate
a campaign to boycott employers who refuse to comply with the set figure.
It supports an international benchmark
for setting the national minimum wage at 40% or 50% of the average wage. The
average wage of workers in the formal sector in South Africa is said to be
about R10 000.
Oliphant said she expected one of three
research reports on the matter to be on her desk by the end of this month.
"We are waiting for the final research
report, one we are told we will get by the end of November. We have about
She presented a progress report to ANC
officials at a national working committee meeting on Monday.
"They appreciate the report and will
support us to look at the issue - in particular, to compare what will transpire
from the research report," she said.
Source: News 24