Business no-show raises hackles
Non-attendance at symposium hints at deep divisions within Nedlac amid stakeholders’ accusations of sidelining
“Why, when experts present evidence, are people so adamant that there must be some other evidence of cataclysmic employment effects? This is the evidence,” Isaacs said at the symposium.
The problem seems to be that research largely approaches the goal of the minimum wage as the eradication of working poverty and takes seriously the possibility of minimum wages as high as R6 000 a month.
Whatever is being said at Nedlac, the government shows no sign of wanting to radically raise existing minimum wages, much less completely negate them with a far higher new national minimum.
This week, the department of labour announced it would instead reduce the annual increase for farm workers.
This was to help the drought-stricken farming sector, the department said, adding farmers should apply for exemptions.
Instead of the 8% the normal inflation-linked formula would have given them, the department raised minimum wages on farms by only 6.6%.
This brings farm wages to R14.25 an hour, up from R13.30 an hour.
A monthly wage of R4 500 would translate into R23.26 an hour.
The domestic worker minimum wages were raised late last year to R11.44 an hour (up from R10.59), equal to R2 230 on a full-time basis – assuming a worker works nine hours a day, five days a week every week.
The least disruptive and consistent level to introduce a national minimum wage would logically be at this level – retaining the sectoral determinations, but plugging the holes in that system that leave millions of workers with no wage-setting mechanism.
According to Phala “we support the introduction of a national minimum wage to address ultralow wages”.
“We have agreed on the definition of a national minimum wage. We are exploring possible options and we believe such options should be tested against the social, economic and particularly employment implications.”
EKING OUT A LIVING The minimum wage being discussed is meant to protect farm workers, like Jonathan Arendse (right) and others who are most vulnerable, against economic exploitation