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CAPE TOWN - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Tuesday welcomed the adoption of the National Minimum Wage Bill by Parliament's select committee on economic development as a "historic victory for millions of workers and their families".

The labour federation said workers have fought for a minimum wage for more than a century, and its introduction will see the earnings of 6.4 million workers increase.

"This is equal to 47% of workers and will directly benefit half the nation.  It will put more wages in the pockets of millions of farm, domestic, retail, hospitality, restaurant, petrol, hairdressing, forestry, furniture, transport, cleaning and other vulnerable, exploited and impoverished workers.  This will help put food on the tables for millions," Cosatu said. 

"It will be a major tool in the fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment."

The bill provides for workers to be paid no less than R20 an hour, with temporary exceptions for certain categories, including farm labours for whom the minimum wage has been set at R18 an hour for the first year.

Cosatu thanked President Cyril Ramaphosa for his consistent support for introducing a minimum wage but stressed that it did not consider the sum provided for in the legislation a living wage, something it said it would continue to fight for.

"A minimum wage is the level below which no South African worker must be paid.  It is not a living wage.  A living wage cannot be legislated.  In fact no country has legislated a living wage.  That is something that unions and workers must campaign for.  That is something that government must work towards.  That is something that business must be compelled to do."

Cosatu urged Parliament to pass the bill into law without delay.

"Any further delays will only serve to demoralise workers and deny them the help they so badly need."

The committee also adopted accompanying pieces of legislation, the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill, the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, without any changes, though opposition parties objected to some aspects of the draft laws.

Committee chairman Mandla Rayi said he believed the legislation marked a step for South Africa.

“All these efforts are geared to alleviating poverty and fighting inequality. It is even comforting that even opposition parties agree with the spirit of the bill, although they have raised areas of concerns,” he said.

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African News Agency (ANA)