Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and labour minister mildred oliphant. Photo: ANA
Parliament – The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) was on board with an agreement between government, business, labour and civil society that the minimum wage be set at R20 an hour effective from May 1, next year, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, all those involved in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) process to set the minimum wage signed the agreement, except Cosatu. 

Ramaphosa said this was not because they did not accept the agreement, but because the union had to report back to its central executive committee in terms of its processes.

The deputy president said the R20 an hour national minimum wage would translate into R3 500 a month for people working 40 hours a week and R3 900 for those working 45 hours a week, adding governing did not see this as a living wage but a compromise.

"We were seeking to balance the issue of increasing the wages of up to 6.6 millon workers [earning below R3,500 per month]...this wage could easily have been 20 thosusand rand 10 thousand rand. In doing so there would have been a negative impact where many workers would have lost their jobs through the introducuion of an overly high minium wage," said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa stressed government did not believe this was a "living wage", but that it was a start.

"If we get to the living wage we all desire, it would wipe out a lot of jobs." Ramaphosa said a commission would be set up to review the national mininum wage on an annual basis.