CAPE TOWN — The South African government reaffirmed its determination to implement the controversial national minimum wage (NMW) which it hailed “as an instrument of economic and social development.”
“It is significant that South Africa will join several countries around the world that have implemented a national minimum wage as an instrument of economic and social development,” the Department of Labor said.
This came after the National Assembly passed the NMW Bill on Tuesday.
The Bill, along with the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and the Labor Relations Amendment Bill, captures the agreements reached by the social partners on measures to strengthen labor stability and collective bargaining and on the modalities for the introduction of the first NMW, department spokesperson Teboho Thejane said.
The NMW Bill seeks to improve the lives of the lowest paid workers at the labor market and carries the promise of addressing the inequality and poverty challenge in South Africa, Thejane said.
The Bill establishes the NMW Commission which will recommend annual adjustments to the level of the NMW and review it on a regular basis in order to take into account the impact of the level on employment, collective bargaining, poverty and inequality.
The government has been pushing the NMW, which is 3,500 rand (about 280 U.S. dollars) per month or 20 rand (about 1.6 dollars) per hour for over six million working people.
The NMW, however, has met with strong opposition.
Trade unions have lambasted the NMW which they label as “slavery wage.” Early this month, massive protests against the NMW took place across the country. Trade unions threaten to stage more protests if the NMW is not raised to a living wage.
Thejane refuted the criticism, saying setting the level was an extremely delicate balancing act due to the fact that social partners had to ensure that the NMW be set at a level that will yield a meaningful impact on the wages of the lowest paid workers, while guarding against any negative impact on employment.
In order to demonstrate flexibility, the Bill includes provisions for businesses that may be unable to afford the NMW to apply for exemption, said Thejane.
The next step in the process will be for the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the Upper House of Parliament, to consider the Bill, Thejane said.
If the NCOP passes the Bill, it will be submitted to the President for assent at which point the date of implementation of the NMW is likely to be made known, he said.
If the NCOP amends or rejects the Bill, it will be referred back to the National Assembly, Thejane said.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK