20 January 2019


Ramaphosa explains “inadequate” national minimum wage 

by: Semphete Correspondent    date: 04 May 2018


President Cyril Ramaphosa has used his Freedom Day and Workers’ Day speeches to assure workers that the South African government cares about their wellbeing and will work with them towards achieving a living wage for all. 

The President, himself a former unionist, said government has made important progress in improving the conditions of the working poor.
“Parliament is currently finalising legislation so that we can implement a national minimum wage for the first time in our country’s history, fulfilling a demand made at the Congress of the People in 1955. This is a great victory for the workers of this country and is a tribute to the social partners who worked so hard to make it a reality,” he said at the Freedom Day celebrations at Dr Rantli Molemela Stadium in Bloemfontein last Friday.  
In these speeches, Ramaphosa also responded to critiques of the national minimum wage, who lashed out at government for ratifying a slave wage. The national minimum wage has been set at R3 500 for now, but Ramaphosa said this is just a start. 

“Some people have argued that the starting minimum wage of R20 an hour is not a living wage. They are correct. Some argue that the national minimum wage will not end income inequality. They too are correct.
But what the national minimum wage does provide is a firm and unassailable foundation – which is agreed to by all social partners – from which to advance the struggle for a living wage. 
“We must remember that the introduction of the national minimum wage will increase the income of over six million working South Africans. A wage increase of that size and that extent is unprecedented in our history, and we must celebrate it”.

Last week the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) along with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) embarked on a national strike decrying the inadequate minimum wage. 

Ramaphosa described the national minimum wage as being like “a great hill that we have climbed, but we dare not linger, because there are still many more hills to climb”.

At the Workers’ Day rally at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth, Ramaphosa again reiterated his call for the national minimum wage to be given a chance. 

“Within the next few months, workers are going to achieve another historic victory with the introduction of a national minimum wage for all working South Africans. This is a victory for Cosatu in particular, which has been fighting for a national minimum wage since its formation,” he said. 
“The national minimum wage will begin at a level of R20 an hour, which will increase the income of over six million working people, while also ensuring that there is minimal negative impact on job creation. The social partners agreed to begin at this level because it will make a significant difference immediately, but will also allow us to measure its effect on the economy”. 
The President said government had put mechanisms in place to ensure that as the minimum wage is increased over time, it is done in a way that meaningfully reduces poverty and inequality and contributes to the inclusive growth of the economy.
“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. 
“To do this, we need to grow our economy, improve levels of productivity, develop the skills of our workforce and create jobs on a far greater scale. The Accord on Collective Bargaining and Industrial Action entered into by the social partners is also a victory for workers. Through this accord, all social partners have committed themselves to take all steps necessary to prevent violence, intimidation and damage to property and to improve the capacity of employers and employees to resolve disputes peacefully and speedily,” said Ramaphosa.
The national minimum wage was scheduled for implementation this month, but that has since been delayed because the Bill has been referred back to the Department of Labour so that it could redraft it and include inputs that had been received from stakeholders and individual members of the Portfolio Committee on Labour.