Cape Times

Call for higher national min­i­mum wage

- KAREN SINGH Society · organization · Congress of South African Trade Unions · Pietermaritzburg

THE R20 an hour national min­i­mum wage will soon come un­der re­view by the National Min­i­mum Wage Com­mis­sion for 2020 and labour or­gan­i­sa­tions are al­ready call­ing for it to be in­creased.

Cosatu said work­ers could not sur­vive on the cur­rent min­i­mum wage.

Cosatu par­lia­men­tary co-or­di­na­tor Matthew Parks said the or­gan­i­sa­tion would like to see an in­crease in min­i­mum wages – in line with the in­fla­tion rate.

“The National Min­i­mum Wage Act re­quires that the National Min­i­mum Wage Com­mis­sion re­view the bill ev­ery year, with the man­date to pro­tect the value of the min­i­mum wage against in­fla­tion and the cost of living to help re­duce in­equal­ity and poverty lev­els,” Parks said.

He said the min­i­mum wage of R20 an hour was agreed to in Fe­bru­ary 2017, but had since been eroded by in­fla­tion and an in­crease would pro­tect work­ers in 2020.

“We are en­gag­ing with the com­mis­sion to make sure that the in­crease hap­pens,” he said.

Parks said the com­mis­sion was sched­uled to meet in the next week or two to dis­cuss the mat­ter.

Nom­ahlubi Jakuja, re­search and pol­icy man­ager for the SA Fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions (Saftu), said the union would also be ad­vo­cat­ing for a higher min­i­mum wage.

“We have al­ways be­lieved the R20 per hour is a colo­nial ceil­ing that is meant to trap peo­ple in per­pet­ual poverty,” said Jakuja.

Dr Azar Jam­mine, di­rec­tor and chief econ­o­mist of Econometri­x, said an in­crease to the min­i­mum wage would not be much more dra­matic than the in­tro­duc­tion of the min­i­mum wage last year.

“In­fla­tion has lifted all prices and many peo­ple have re­ceived wage in­creases al­ready. For the sta­tus quo to be main­tained, with re­gard to the min­i­mum wage, it has to be in­creased in line with in­fla­tion,” Jam­mine said.

He said the is­sue of whether or not the Min­i­mum Wage Bill was jus­ti­fied, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, had still not been re­solved.

Jam­mine said in coun­tries where peo­ple with rea­son­ably high-skilled jobs ac­cepted much lower wages, the econ­omy was do­ing ex­tremely well with no un­em­ploy­ment.

He said min­i­mum wages re­sulted in com­pa­nies ei­ther not em­ploy­ing or lay­ing off work­ers.

“One could have seen more wage cre­ation and more job cre­ation in the ab­sence of a min­i­mum wage.”

The Pi­eter­mar­itzburg Eco­nomic Jus­tice and Dig­nity Group es­ti­mated that the av­er­age min­i­mum wage worker, who earns R20 per hour, would re­ceive R3 660 a month.

In Novem­ber 2018, a cal­cu­la­tion which in­cluded trans­port, pre­paid elec­tric­ity and food showed that R3 976 was needed to cover the three core goods and ser­vices, leav­ing a deficit of R616.

In Novem­ber 2019, R4 140 was needed to cover the three core goods and ser­vices, leav­ing a deficit of R780.

The group es­ti­mated that if other es­sen­tial ex­penses such as burial poli­cies and school fees were added to the cal­cu­la­tion, then peo­ple living on a low in­come in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg and sup­port­ing a fam­ily of four would need to earn R7 752 for Novem­ber 2019.

“It is clear that on low wages and low grants, th­ese ex­pense costs are well be­yond the af­ford­abil­ity ca­pac­ity of most house­holds living on low in­comes,” said the group.

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