Minimum wage could lead to
Turning the national minimum wage into an actual law has raised new problems, including opportunities for “all sorts of abuses” if state projects such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) are exempted from the wage.
It appears the department of labour intends to do exactly that, said Shane Godfrey from the University of Cape Town’s Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group.
The national minimum wage was designed by an expert panel appointed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and was then turned into an agreement at the National Economic Development and Labour Council.
Godfrey said both processes left too much undetermined.
The department is having a bill drafted in the hopes of reaching a deadline for implementation next year.
“A whole set of policy decisions have simply been delegated to the department due to a lack of detail in the agreement,” he said.
Officially, it has not been decided whether the EPWP would be exempt from the national minimum wage, but the department has already asserted that this was the case in public roadshows, said Godfrey.
“The problem is that the EPWP wage is at R11 now. Raising it to the national minimum wage would involve a considerable amount.”
The minimum wage is meant to come into effect next year at an initial rate of R20 an hour.
If wages under the EPWP are not at least moved nearer to this level, the incentive to convert forms of work into EPWP projects becomes stronger.
Godfrey said that municipal unions in particular had complained that work at local government level was getting shifted into the EPWP to lower labour costs.
At least lifting the EPWP wage to a less extreme discount to the R20 national minimum wage, as will be the case with domestic work and farming, could help, said Godfrey.
Godfrey and his colleagues have been documenting all the problems that could crop up if the national minimum wage is slotted into the existing mesh of labour laws.
At a workshop on their findings this week, Godfrey advocated all the state-subsidised forms of employment to be part of the national minimum wage.
This includes the EPWP, learnerships and jobs that are being subsidised by the divisive youth wage subsidy.
The learnership system has been a bone of contention in the long negotiations around a minimum wage, and applying it to this system could have consequences for the funds collected by the 1% skills development levy.
“Most of them would earn below the minium wage, so