FOR THE RECORD

CityPress - - Business - NEIL COLE­MAN busi­ness@city­press.co.za

This refers to your ar­ti­cle “Deal or no deal” (City Press, Fe­bru­ary 12 2017), which claims that Cosatu felt “swin­dled” in the na­tional min­i­mum wage (NMW) ne­go­ti­a­tions.

I cat­e­gor­i­cally deny hav­ing said that we felt “swin­dled” by pro­vi­sions in the agree­ment.

Our con­cerns re­lated to am­bigu­ous word­ing of spe­cific pro­vi­sions.

In­deed, the same ar­ti­cle quotes me as say­ing “the ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture is not in ques­tion…”

The fi­nal­i­sa­tion of a deal on the NMW is a highly charged mat­ter, and a mis­portrayal of de­vel­op­ments could gen­er­ate un­nec­es­sary mis­trust be­tween the par­ties and com­pro­mise the process.

The fact that par­ties have dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions on as­pects of the agree­ment pre­cisely re­in­forces the point I was mak­ing to your jour­nal­ist: that there are some am­bigu­ous or con­fus­ing for­mu­la­tions in the agree­ment, which, if not corrected, will cause prob­lems down the line. I said it re­quires “tweak­ing”.

For ex­am­ple, the pro­vi­sion that an­nual in­creases must not “lead to the ero­sion of the value” of the NMW is qual­i­fied by ref­er­ence to a range of fac­tors, which makes this word­ing ex­tremely con­fus­ing.

The in­ten­tion was to en­sure in­creases at least equal to in­fla­tion.

Your story quotes busi­ness and the panel chair as say­ing that this may mean zero in­creases, which re­in­forces our point.

It is not about be­ing “swin­dled”, but about en­sur­ing that the agree­ment has in­tegrity, and is clearly un­der­stood by all par­ties.

The story con­fuses other facts about the agree­ment. It states that a pro­posal to fur­ther en­gage on the is­sue of pay­ment for min­i­mum hours – an ab­so­lutely cru­cial is­sue – is “wa­tered down” to ap­ply only when “acts of God” cut short a work­ing day.

How­ever, this ref­er­ence to “acts of God” was re­moved in the fi­nal ver­sion of the agree­ment on the web­site of the Na­tional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Labour Coun­cil (Ned­lac).

The stip­u­la­tion of min­i­mum hours goes way be­yond prob­lems of bad weather etc, but is in­tended to pro­tect work­ers against em­ploy­ers re­duc­ing hours in re­sponse to im­proved wages.

Con­trary to the sug­ges­tion in the story, Cosatu had com­pro­mised some time ago on our de­mand that a medium-term tar­get be set up­front.

We were only un­happy with the re­moval of spe­cific pro­posed bench­marks for that tar­get, in­clud­ing the na­tional min­i­mum liv­ing wage level.

The im­pres­sion of a capri­cious ap­proach by labour to the ne­go­ti­a­tions doesn’t do jus­tice to the many months of hard work we have put in to try to keep the ne­go­ti­a­tions on track – in the face of many at­tempts to frus­trate and de­rail them. Cole­man is lead ne­go­tia­tor for labour in the

wage in­equal­ity task team at Ned­lac An edit­ing er­ror led to the printed ver­sion of the ar­ti­cle quot­ing Cole­man as say­ing Cosatu had been “swin­dled”. We apol­o­gise for the er­ror, corrected on­line This is an edited ver­sion of a let­ter to City Press from Cole­man about the ar­ti­cle “Deal or no deal”

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