Call for national minimum wage of R5,000 a month

Phaphama Ngcibi expresses her views on a national minimum wage. Photo by Katy Scott.

Katy Scott

11 November 2014

“We would like the government to legislate a national minimum wage of R4,500 so that the private sector cannot get away with murder,” Langa resident Fezile Olifant told a parliamentary hearing on the national minimum wage in Gugulethu at the weekend.

Olifant was one of several participants who called for a minimum wage of R4,500 or more.

The nationwide hearings, which kicked off in Gugulethu, are organised by parliament’s Labour Portfolio Committee which is to make recommendations to the National Assembly on a national minimum wage.

The proposal for a legislated national minimum wage was adopted at Cosatu’s bargaining conference in March 2013. The proposal was partly incorporated into the ANC’s 2014 election manifesto which promised that an ANC government would “investigate the modality for the introduction of a national minimum wage as one of the key mechanisms to reduce income inequality”.

At present minimum wages are set in some sectors but there is no national minimum wage.

According to Cosatu half of all employed workers earn R3,000 a month or less.

Portfolio committee chair Lumka Yengeni told the Gugulethu audience: “We know there are workers when the month end comes who fear going home. We want you to have input and inform government about what should be done.”

Many members of the public used the opportunity to address parliament with their grievances about working conditions, pensions and unemployment in their communities. Yengeni had to reiterate the purpose of the public hearing asking participants to say whether they wanted a national minimum wage and what they would like it to be.

Democratic Alliance MP Ian Ollis said the options were one national minimum wage, sectoral minimum wages or wages negotiated between employees and employers.

ANC MP Thozama Mantashe said a national minimum wage was inevitable. “We want to hear from the people of South Africa which level we should put it at.”

Many participants called for a minimum of R5,000.

“Besides the R5,000 that I should be earning,” said Phaphama Ngcibi, “I should also be equipped with skills and training”.

Nolwandle Ntsaro, who identified herself as an ANC member, suggested labourers without a matric certificate should receive a minimum wage of R7,000. Those with a matric certificate should get R12,000, and those with a diploma or degree should receive R15,000, she said.

Cleaner Boniswa Nyokana said cleaners and domestic workers had to undertake the lowest, most degrading forms of work. “If we could be given R5,500, we would feel better,” she said.

Marvelous Magadu said MPs should “wake up and stop sleeping in government” and give all workers a minimum wage of R5,000. He criticised “those lazy officials in the Department of Labour” and said “the government has failed us dismally”.

The ideas and issues raised by the nationwide public hearings will inform the Committee’s recommendations, Yengeni said. “Parliament will be guided by what the majority says, particularly those who are vulnerable,” she said.