Wage system back in court
Free Market Foundation will try to disable the mechanism that allows employers and unions to negotiate sector-wide wages
minimum wages from as low as R2 000 to as high as R7 000 for occupations in different sectors.
The original case made by the Free Market Foundation was sweeping, with claims that the wage-setting system violated a number of constitutional rights.
The case has now been whittled down to a relatively simple legal issue: Are bargaining councils “public” entities? The Free Market Foundation says no. Instead, they are private entities given unconstitutional powers to set wages for non-parties that the minister has to impose on everyone else.
The minister of labour, councils and unions say yes, they are public entities in that they exist to carry out a process created by law with legally delegated powers. This is not a new battle. Cosatu fought off an attempt in 1988 to change the act to give the minister of labour powers like those the Free Market Foundation wants her to have.
The case is also one of several that have taken aim at section 32 of the act.
The respondents, including the minister, claim the legal questions have already been answered in other cases, making the exercise pointless.
The clothing and metals sector’s bargaining councils have seen their extensions challenged in court over the past few years.
Like the more modest attack in the clothing sector’s case, the Free Market Foundation’s case has had a rich backer.
Capitec chairperson Michiel le Roux bankrolled it through his philanthropic foundation, the Millennium Trust.
The Free Market Foundation’s case has been driven by businessman-turned-politician Herman Mashaba, who became chair of the Free Market Foundation around about the time he started financing the court challenge.
Mashaba has now withdrawn from both the Free Market Foundation and the case on account of becoming the DA’s mayoral candidate for Johannesburg.
According to Jayne Boccaleone, spokesperson for the Free Market Foundation, the think-tank is now carrying the costs itself.
LABOUR LAW Free Market Foundation believes it can blow a hole in the mechanism that gives organised employers and unions the ability to negotiate sector-wide wages