NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Saftu members protest against the national minimum wage in Newtown.Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)

The National Minimum Wage Bill, which prescribes R20 an hour and would have come into effect on May 1, is being amended.

While the Department of Labour said there would be no turning back on the wage, the newly formed SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has vowed to rebel against it.

Saftu members who marched across cities nationwide on Wednesday, have slammed the bill for prescribing “slavery wages”.

It was the first public demonstration of Saftu’s muscle.

The bill also provides for temporary exceptions for the first year: farm workers R18 an hour; domestic workers R15 an hour; and workers in the expanded public works programme, R11 an hour.

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The minimum wage was approved by the Cabinet in November but after public hearings the portfolio committee on labour referred the bill back to the Department of Labour for inclusion of input by various stakeholders.

The committee had consolidated all comments and suggestions received, verbal and written, and handed them to the parliamentary legal officer and state law advisers to redraft changes agreed to during the deliberations of the committee, said the department’s director-general, Thobile Lamati.

General-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the federation would continue protesting until the minimum wage was revised.

“This is a direct insult to the poorest of the poor. In essence, the government is telling poor people to make ends meet with R3000 and less a month. If you are looking for uncaring government, don’t look further than the ANC.”

But Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said it welcomed the proposed bill as a starting point in improving workers’ lives.

Dennis George, general-secretary of the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), also rejected all forms of push back against the bill.

“It can never be legitimate to allow highly irresponsible grandstanding to undermine a lot of hard work put in by organised labour represented by Fedusa, Cosatu and Nactu (National Council of Trade Unions) and the social partners of business and government at Nedlac over a two-year period in negotiating a minimum wage to lift millions of vulnerable workers out of abject poverty."

George said half of the workforce would directly benefit when the bill was passed.

Sunday Independent