President Cyril Ramaphosa says although the R20 per hour national minimum wage is not a living wage, work is underway to ensure that a living wage is achieved. Picture: Reuters/Rogan Ward/File Photo

Port Elizabeth - President Cyril Ramaphosa says although the R20 per hour national minimum wage is not a living wage, work is underway to ensure that a living wage is achieved.

Ramaphosa said to achieve a living wage, the country’s economy needs to grow and improve the levels of productivity.

The President was speaking at a May Day rally being hosted by ANC alliance partner Cosatu in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The national minimum wage has been criticised by some, especially rival unions such as Saftu, which held a strike last week in protest against the national minimum wage. The federation called the wage “an insult to workers”.

But Ramaphosa has brushed off this criticism and said that the agreement between social partners, business and labour, on the national minimum wage should be seen as achievement for workers and a starting point.

“This is a victory for workers of our country no matter what other people have said. This was in the Freedom Charter. We salute once again all social partners that worked together over the course of nearly three years to reach agreement on this far-reaching measure to improve the conditions of millions of poor families. The national minimum wage will begin at a level of R20 an hour, which will increase the income of over 6 million working people, while also ensuring that there is minimal negative impact on job creation,” said Ramaphosa.

He said there was work underway to ensure that over time the national minimum wage is a living wage 

“All social partners recognise that at its introduction, the national minimum wage will be less than what we consider to be a living wage. The social partners also agree that it must be our firm determination to move as quickly as possible to a living wage.”

“We have put in place mechanisms to ensure that as we increase the minimum wage over time, we do so in a way that meaningfully reduces poverty and inequality and contributes to the inclusive growth of our economy,” said Ramaphosa.

He also touched on the issue of the gender pay gap that was still an issue and called for that gap to be closed.

“With vigour and determination, we must further advance the realisation of the demands of the Freedom Charter. Specifically, the injunction that there must be equal pay for equal work for men and women of all races. We must pay more attention to issues of women in the workplace and work to close the persistent wage gap between men and women. 

For far too long, women in the workplace have been discriminated against through the payment of lesser wages as compared to men doing the same work,” said Ramaphosa.

Political Bureau