Minimum wage talks focus on disparities

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parliament jan 28 GCIS File photo: GCIS

Johannesburg - A national minimum wage would be “stillborn” without private sector buy-in and won’t achieve much unless the government addressed “obscene” executive pay, Parliament’s labour committee heard on Wednesday.

The national minimum wage should also not be seen as a remedy for all labour problems or a panacea, says the Black Management Forum in its submission to the committee.

The BMF and trade unions on Wednesday discussed the national minimum wage at a public hearing on the matter.

But some MPs believe the minimum wage could increase levels of unemployment and make matters worse.

BMF head of research Mbhazima Makhubele said his organisation was of the opinion that, among other things, the high unemployment rate was a major contributor to inequality.

“And if you look at our numbers compared to countries within Brics, it indicates that we have a serious challenge because, among (the other) Brics countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), we’re talking about an unemployment rate of, in the majority of instances, 5 percent,” Makhubele said.

Equality would remain an “illusion and a moving target” if the current situation continues, he added.

“The earning differentials between workers and executives in this country are just not sustainable, they are obscene,” Makhubele said.

The introduction of a minimum wage would not achieve much unless it was accompanied by a “serious rethink on executive pay”, he added.

“This is an opportune time for Parliament to seek and reflect on this issue in terms of how to deal with these huge differentials between workers and managers.

“We support the introduction of a national minimum wage, but without private sector support and buy-in, we will not achieve much,” Makhubele said.

Mhleli Mbana of the Southern African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union told the hearings that businesses weren’t interested in workers, and this would pose a challenge.

“They are not interested in developing this country. They’re about enriching their pockets.”

DA MP Ian Ollis questioned the viability of a minimum wage, asking whether it would not be better to negotiate wages.

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