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Landmark national minimum wage bill adoption a ‘historic win’

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The National Minimum Wage Bill, the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill were adopted by the National Assembly on Tuesday evening.

The adoption of the National Minimum Wage Bill was a major step in the process spearheaded by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he was deputy president and taken forward by the National Economic Development and Labour Council.

The DA opposed all three bills, which will now be sent for processing by the National Council of Provinces.

Cosatu welcomed the adoption of the bills, describing it as “an historic victory for millions of workers” and the outcome of a long struggle.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said in the debate on the bills that she was “pleased the journey towards addressing the needs of the lowest-paid workers in the labour market has reached this milestone”.

She noted that the call for a national minimum wage dated back to the adoption of the Freedom Charter of 1955, and it was a call taken up in the 2014 election manifesto of the ANC.

The National Minimum Wage Bill establishes the initial minimum wage at R20 per hour, while the wage for domestic workers and farm workers will initially be set at R15 and R18 an hour, respectively, though these will be adjusted within two years of implementation.

Provision is made for exemptions for employers who cannot afford the minimum wage, and sectoral wage determinations will continue.

The Labour Relations Amendment Bill restricts picketing and provides for a secret ballot before strike action.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Bill deals with the extension of bargaining council agreements.

During the debate, acting labour committee chairwoman Sharome van Schalkwyk rejected accusations that the process of dealing with the bills had been rushed.

She emphasised that the national minimum wage was not a living wage as it would merely provide a basic floor. A living wage would provide enough to lead a decent life.

Van Schalkwyk said R20 per hour was a starting point, but would increase the income of about 6.6-million workers now working below the national minimum wage. The proposal of a R12,500 a month minimum wage made by the South African Federation of Trade Unions was not realistic and would harm the economy, she said.

The EFF rejected the level at which the national minimum wage had been set, while the IFP rejected the notion of a national minimum wage and argued for sectoral minimum wages.

[Source: Business Live]
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