FOR THE RECORD
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”