‘Hol­low wage’ for drivers

Min­i­mum not paid

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - BONGANI NKOSI

PAY­MENT of the min­i­mum wage in the taxi in­dus­try is largely a pipe dream for drivers, de­spite the Labour De­part­ment stip­u­lat­ing new pay scales each year.

Min­is­ter Mil­dred Oliphant has an­nounced an in­creased min­i­mum wage for the sec­tor. Ac­cord­ing to her, pay to taxi drivers should move to R3 413.26 from R3 207.95 a month. This equates to R16. 41 per hour, up from the cur­rent R15.42.

Wages to rank mar­shals should in­crease to R2 728.45 from R2 564.33. The Labour De­part­ment has been spec­i­fy­ing the min­i­mum wage in the taxi in­dus­try since 2005, set­ting it at R1 350 that year.

It was agreed af­ter talks that dragged on for six years be­tween the gov­ern­ment and taxi bosses.

But to many drivers, the min­i­mum wage the gov­ern­ment stip­u­lates each year is just a hol­low ex­er­cise be­cause they are not paid ac­cord­ing to it.

The Star met taxi drivers at the West­gate taxi rank, down­town Joburg, who earn far less than the min­i­mum wage.

A taxi driver op­er­at­ing be­tween the rank and East­gate mall re­vealed he was get­ting paid R300 a week. He said many drivers were aware of the sec­toral de­ter­mi­na­tion, but “it doesn’t ap­ply here. It’s painful that I get paid so lit­tle. But what can I do? I un­der­stand the min­i­mum wage is there to pro­tect us as work­ers, but the owner won’t give you that” .

A fel­low driver, also work­ing be­tween West­gate and East­gate, said he earned way less than the min­i­mum wage too. “We work hard as drivers, but we’re not paid ac­cord­ingly.”

A taxi driver op­er­at­ing be­tween Joburg and Van­der­bi­jl­park said he earned R1 000 a week. While this is more than the set min­i­mum wage, he said his pay was be­cause he drove the 23-seater Iveco minibus. “Many of those driv­ing the 15-seater taxis do not earn that much.”

A re­port by Sech­aba Tumelo for his Mas­ter’s de­gree at Wits Univer­sity, ti­tled “Per­cep­tions of the Min­i­mum Wage in the Jo­han­nes­burg Taxi In­dus­try”, said the Labour De­part­ment fails to en­force the min­i­mum wage.

Philip Taai­bosch, pres­i­dent of the South African Na­tional Taxi Coun­cil (San­taco), ad­mit­ted the in­dus­try does not pay ac­cord­ing to the min­i­mum wage reg­u­la­tion. How­ever, he said many drivers earned com­mis­sion, take home “far above the min­i­mum wage”.

“When you’re talk­ing to own­ers, they find it dif­fi­cult to com­mit to the min­i­mum wage,” Taai­bosch said.

He blamed the sta­tus quo on the ab­sence of state sub­si­dies for the taxi in­dus­try. The Competition Com­mis­sion’s re­port on whether the in­dus­try should be sub­sidised, is ex­pected next year.

Te­boho The­jane, spokesper­son for the Labour De­part­ment, urged drivers who are paid be­low the min­i­mum wage to lodge com­plaints.

Mo­rake Mokoena, of the South African Trans­port and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union (Satawu), said: “We have a dif­fi­culty with the de­part­ment. They go to taxi ranks to ask drivers how much they earn, and af­ter that they turn and say drivers must come to them to make for­mal com­plaints… It’s their duty to en­force the min­i­mum wage,” Mokoena said.

Min­i­mum wage is to pro­tect work­ers, but own­ers won’t give you that

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