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Minimum Wage Bill hits bumpy road….

Minimum Wage not signed into law…

The long journey for South Africa’s first minimum wage fix has been tabled in the National Assembly with the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment (BCEA) Bill and the National Minimum Wage Bill (NMW) Bill having passed second reading stage and having been voted upon.

But all is not well with in the drafting of this Bill by the Department of Labour (DOL) and further reports on union reactions are to be posted in due course. This site is archival.

These two Bills, voted upon and approved by both the National Assembly and the NCOP, four months before the agreed minimum wage to be implemented by law with a deadline of May 2018 set by President Ramaphosa in his State of Nation Address, have therefore not yet been signed by him.

Terminology all wrong

This is because nobody present at the Portfolio Committee of Labour meetings seems to have know what was agreed at earlier NEDLAC meetings.  Both Bills were tabled by the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant.   In the case of the NMW Bill, the proposal tabled specifies that the national minimum wage will be obligatory for all employees and cannot be varied by contract, collective agreement or law, except by a law amending the anchor Act itself.

Cabinet’s approval of a national minimum wage followed consultations and agreements with business‚ labour and community formations within NEDLAC to allow for the introduction of a national minimum wage.  Some low-income employees such as farm workers and domestic workers are to be exempted at a lesser sum and subject to further talks.

Final story

This approval is also translated across into the tandem NMW Bill, a much shorter 14-page Bill, states as item one that the national minimum wage for employees is R20 for each ordinary hour worked but then states as item two that despite this, farm workers are to be entitled to a minimum wage of R18 per hour and domestic workers to R15 per hour. Both anchor Bills can be amended based on annual negotiations.

The BCE Act describes a farm worker simply as “a worker who is employed mainly or wholly in connection with farming or forestry activities” and describes a domestic worker not only as being a worker employed in a home but also “a gardener; a person employed by a household as a driver of a motor vehicle; a person who takes care of children, the aged, the sick, the frail or the disabled; and domestic workers employed or supplied by employment services.”

New boss

The tabling of these two Bills was ratcheted up when Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa referred to them in one of his first candid speeches unencumbered by political restraint, when he said, “The minimum wage, which translates to R3,500 per month, will be based on a 40-hour week and R3,900 for a 45-hour week. Whilst not being a living wage in his estimation, it represented a start to the upliftment of 6.6 million workers in the country who earn below R3,500, he said.

The secret to acceptance for any number of reasons will not be as a result of parliamentary hearings in this case but an assessed view of how acceptance plays out at provincial level, now in process.   Workshops are now touring the country organised by DOL attempting not only the easier task of informing city dwellers but also attempting to outreach to more distant areas such as farming communities.

Outreach

In democratic terms it has been decided that the final stages of the Bill must reflect how the people feel.  Provincial briefing sessions on the subject of a minimum wage started 9 November 2017 and commenced in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, George, Pietermaritzburg, Richards Bay, Durban, Tzaneen, and Polokwane.

The balance of meetings is to be completed after Parliament has opened Port Elizabeth, Upington and culminating in Kimberley. The balance of all provincial will be assessed by MPs and Parliament will proceed based on input.   Feedback is filtering through that the description of workers leaves a number of casual categories holding the short straw in terms of definitions. Our current report with clients amplifies the outrage.

How they see it

The proposed changes to the BCE Act also make provision for the introduction of a new section dealing with guaranteed minimum hours of work. This section provides that an employee, who works for less than four hours on any day will be entitled to be paid for four hours of work if circumstances beyond the control of the employee prevent work from being performed.

Reactions of unions to the term of “employee” being used throughout in the Minimum Wage Bill is now being played out and the “fall out” from the misrepresentation  is referred to in reports still with clients.

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