South African workers will start receiving the National Minimum Wage from 1 January, 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Friday.
“We have gathered here to declare that from the 1st of January 2019, no worker may be paid below the national minimum wage,” he said at an event in Kliptown, Soweto.
“It is a great achievement for the labour movement, which has placed this fundamental demand at the centre of its struggle for better conditions for workers,” said Ramaphosa, who with two others founded the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
He added that the minimum wage — which is currently set at R20 an hour (₦514) — should also be seen as an achievement for business as it demonstrates the commitment of employers to fairer wages and better working conditions.
President Ramaphosa said the national minimum wage does not stand alone and that it’s part of a broader engagement among social partners on how to reduce wage inequality and promote labour stability in South Africa.
“We have heard the voices of those who say the starting minimum wage level of R20 an hour is too low. We agree. It is far below what we would want workers to earn,” he said.
He added that it was a starting level as evidence showed that it would not lead to widespread layoffs.
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) President Zingiswa Losi said organized labour welcomes the minimum wage, calling it a historic achievement for workers.
“The minimum wage and labour acts are historic achievements for workers. They are a result of decades of struggle by workers, the national minimum wage will see the wages of 6.4 million of the most vulnerable workers including retail, and other impoverished workers rising. This is equal to 47 percent of workers, in simple terms half the nation will benefit from this directly,” she said, adding that it will effect a massive economic stimulus for the local economy.
“The minimum wage would put more money into workers pockets at a time when workers are facing a 1% VAT increase (to 15%) as well as rising price increases coupled with increasing levels of unemployment and retrenchments, she said.
Losi urged the government to act without fear or favour against employers who pay workers below the minimum wage, noting that labour would push for the introduction of a living wage.
South African Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said the minimum wage will not replace the minimum wages that have already been agreed to, through the collective bargaining agreements.
“The national minimum wage will replace only the minimum wage in the sector if that minimum wage is less than the national minimum wage that should be clear,” she stressed.