Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - Underpaid workers have inundated the CCMA with applications to force their employers to pay the new national minimum wage.

The arbitration body has received more than 350 wage dispute cases since the Minimum Wage Act became law last month.

Unions have expressed concern over the reluctance of employers to implement the new wage.

The United National Transport Union (Untu) lamented that the surge of disputes related to non-compliance with the minimum wage could stretch out for months, putting workers at a disadvantage.

Steve Harris, Untu's general secretary, said many cases got lost between the CCMA and the Labour Court as workers gave up because of lengthy court processes.

He said concerns related to the monitoring and implementation of the minimum wage were ventilated at the Labour Schools, which was organised by Nedlac, in Pretoria last week.

CCMA spokesperson Dumisani Mavundla could not give an exact number of the lodged dispute cases yesterday because the information was not readily available, but said “it was around that figure”.

Theledi Serape, an employee at a security company in Ekurhuleni, told the Saturday Star this week that he had approached the CCMA, because the company he worked for did not show any willingness to increase salaries in accordance with the new law.

“The employer knows we have little power to fight them. Processes at the CCMA take time. If they see that you are giving them problems, they fire you and get other people they pay less.”

He was paid R2000 a month for guarding in Springs.

“I get to work at 6am and I will be relieved at 6pm. I travel from Springs to Germiston. I work just for transport costs,” he said.

Serape said the government should protect workers from companies that threaten employees who demand better wages.

“This minimum wage issue will work if the government verifies salaries and stops companies from intimidating people.”

Moses Tladi, another security guard, agreed.

“It would take a lot of stress away from employees. We don’t have time to follow CCMA processes,” he said.

Carmen Fourie, an employment relations practitioner, said complying with the minimum wage meant more than just paying R3500 per month.

“The minimum wage for workers is R20 per hour. That means the monthly amount can be more or less R3500 depending on how many hours an employee works.”

The minimum wage for domestic workers is R15 per hour, R18 per hour for farm workers and R11 per hour for workers on expanded public works programmes.

Fourie advised that employees should approach their employers first for the sake of good relations before taking other avenues.

“If that does not work, employees should contact the closest Department of Labour and inform an inspector that their employer is not complying with the minimum wage.

“If the employer is not complying, the inspector will issue a document ordering them to comply by a specific date.”

Employees could approach the CCMA, but this was not applicable to those who earned more than R205433.30 cost to company a year, she said.

In cases where employers cannot afford the minimum wage, exemptions are permitted.

“The maximum allowed is 10%. That means R18 instead of R20 per hour for a period of time no longer than 12 months,” said Fourie.

Rob Cooper, chairperson of the Payroll Authors Group of South Africa, warned members to comply.

“There will be no sympathy for non-compliance from the CCMA. Fines can be retrospectively applied," Cooper said.

Political Bureau