The South African Federation of Trade Unions has noted the decision of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Labour to refer the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Bill back to the Department of Labour to be redrafted so that it includes the public input received by the committee.
One of the public’s submissions was that made by SAFTU on 17 April 2018, and the federation will seek to ensure that our views are reflected in the new draft.
The committee’s acting chairperson Sharome van Schalkwyk said that “This piece of legislation is critical in our country, not only in fighting inequality, but also addressing abuse of the vulnerable workers in some sectors, that it will change the lives of the vulnerable for a long time, and that it must be close to perfection when it is tabled before the National Assembly”.
The federation is however very concerned that she added that the suggested minimum R20 per hour amount in the NMW Bill was a starting figure that would be reviewed yearly. SAFTU disagrees that reviewing the R20 an hour poverty wage every year will in any way alter the fact that it will still be a poverty wage on which no-one should be expected to live.
It perpetuates and legitimises the unequal apartheid wage structure, it will keep millions of workers mired in poverty and it will make South Africa an even more unequal society.
She also claimed that the legislation, (presumably referring to the amendments to various labour laws), will not take away the right to strike, as is often claimed. SAFTU however insists that these amendments do indeed threaten the right to strike because of the number of procedural obstacles which trade unions will have to overcome before they can declare a strike which is protected.
SAFTU demands that the Department of Labour does not just tinker with the details of the Bill but makes fundamental changes so that the minimum wage becomes a living wage, that it applies across the board with no exemptions and that it will be rigorously enforced.
We are forging ahead with the mass mobilisation of workers on 25 April. This will be a nationwide general strike and marches throughout the country, to protest against the proposed poverty-level NMW of R20 an hour and amendments to labour laws which will destroy workers constitutional right to strike.
For further insight into SAFTU’s plans, we invite the media to a press briefing on the mass action which will hit the streets of South Africa on Wednesday. It will be addressed by the President and General Secretary of SAFTU, Mac Chavalala and Zwelinzima Vavi, who will speak on the demands of the protest, the unions’ state of readiness and the routes of the marches.