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** This story has been updated **

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has rejected the signing into law of the National Minimum Wage Bill by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa signed into law the bill, which will come into effect on a date to be determined by a proclamation from the president.

The Presidency in a statement said: "The Act sets a floor of R20 per hour for the majority of the country’s workers, which will raise the earnings of an estimated six million South Africans – more than half of the labour force - who earn below this level at present.

"The National Minimum Wage Act sets SA’s first national minimum wage at R20 an hour – equivalent to R3 500 per month, depending on the number of hours worked – and creates a phase-in period for farm workers, forestry workers, domestic workers, welfare sector and care workers, due to their vulnerability to disemployment."

Numsa in a statement said the signing into law of the bill would "legalise" a poverty wage and was an insult to workers.

"The minimum wage bill will legalise the poverty wage of R20 per hour. This is an insult to the working class who fought and died to defeat the apartheid government," Numsa national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said on Saturday.

"It is a fact that South Africa is one of the global leaders in the gap between CEO’s and ordinary workers. CEO’s in South Africa are paid obscene amounts of money, while the workers, who create the wealth, earn peanuts."

The "poverty national minimum wage" would worsen the living conditions of workers. The amount was negotiated to "favour capital in order to give them flexibility and limit the hours which workers can work", Hlubi-Majola said.

"It is shameful that in this so-called democratic South Africa more than six million people earn less than this insignificant amount. This is an indictment against the ANC government for failing to promote an agenda to genuinely improve and transform the lives of the working class."

Numsa would continue to mobilise its members and the working class to fight against these "slavery wages", Hlubi-Majola said.

African News Agency/ANA