It is important to ensure that employers and employees know and understand the National Minimum Wage Act, writes Michael Bagraim. File image: Karen Sandison/African News Agency
Durban - The R20 national minimum wage will soon come under review by the National Minimum Wage Commission for 2020 and labour organisations are already calling for it to be increased.

Cosatu said workers could not survive on the current minimum wage.

Cosatu’s parliamentary co-ordinator, Matthew Parks, said the organisation would like to see an increase in minimum wages - in line with the inflation rate.

“The National Minimum Wage Act requires that the National Minimum Wage Commission review the bill every year, with the mandate to protect the value of the minimum wage against inflation and the cost of living to help reduce inequality and poverty levels,” Parks said.

He said the minimum wage of R20 an hour was agreed to in February 2017, but had since been eroded by inflation and an increase would protect workers in 2020.

“We are engaging with the commission to make sure that the increase happens,” he said.

Parks said the commission was scheduled to meet in the next week or two to discuss the matter.

Nomahlubi Jakuja, research and policy manager for the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), said the union would also be advocating for a higher minimum wage.

“We have always believed the R20 per hour is a colonial ceiling that is meant to trap people in perpetual poverty,” said Jakuja.

Dr Azar Jammine, director and chief economist of Econometrix, said that an increase to the minimum wage would not be much more dramatic than the introduction of the minimum wage last year.

“Inflation has lifted all prices and many people have received wage increases already. For the status quo to be maintained, with regard to the minimum wage, it has to be increased in line with inflation,” Jammine said.

He said the issue of whether or not the Minimum Wage Bill was justified, positive or negative, had still not been resolved.

Jammine said in countries where people with reasonably high skilled jobs accepted much lower wages, the economy was doing extremely well with no unemployment.

He said minimum wages resulted in companies either not employing or laying-off workers.

“One could have seen more wage creation and more job creation in the absence of a minimum wage,” Jammine said.

The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group said between November 2018 and November 2019, the deficit in the national minimum wage had increased by 5% - from -18% to -23%.

The group estimated that the average minimum wage worker, who earns R20 per hour, would receive R3660 a month.

In November 2018, a calculation which included transport to work, prepaid electricity and food showed that R3976 was needed to cover the three core goods and services, leaving a deficit of R616.

In November 2019, R4140 was needed to cover the three core goods and services, leaving a deficit of R780.

The group estimated that if other essential expenses like burial policies and school fees were added to the calculation, then people living on a low income in Pietermaritzburg and supporting a family of four would need to earn R7752 for November 2019.

“It is clear that on low wages and low grants, these expense costs are well beyond the affordability capacity of most households living on low incomes,” said the group.

Households cut back on food, according to the group, “one of the few expenses we have some level of control over”, and took on debt to cover expense shortfalls.

The Mercury