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The Portfolio Committee on Labour has said it will welcome public comment on the National Minimum Wage bill in the next three weeks, when the Committee is expected to start deliberating on the Bill. The Department of Labour today tabled the National Minimum Wage Bill for the consideration of the Committee.

The Minister of Labour, Ms Mildred Oliphant, told the Committee that the Bill is a mechanism, intended to deal with income inequalities and improve the living conditions of the poor.

“This is in line with the pronouncements of the President in the State of the Nation Address of 2014 to investigate the possibility of a national minimum wage. The task was delegated to the Deputy President to lead the process at National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac),” Minister Ms Mildred Oliphant said.

She said this process was now finished, and a proposal had been submitted and accepted by the Cabinet.

The Committee was taken through aspects of the Bill. It heard that the impact of the minimum wage on employment creation had been discussed at Nedlac and that exemptions would be granted if a company had demonstrated sufficiently that it was unable to implement it.

Departmental official Mr Thembinkosi Mkalipi said the Bill speaks of a two-year grace period for the agriculture and domestic sectors, which will be reviewed on a two-year basis. “The national minimum wage will not apply to volunteers who do not receive a salary and cannot be varied [downwards] by a contract of employment, or agreements between an employer and an employee. The only variation that one can make is an upward variation,” he said.

Members asked why the hourly rate was applied differently to Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers and those employed in the private sector. Committee Member Mr Ralph Moteka commented that it made no sense that EPWP workers were paid less than the proposed hourly rate.

“Why do we say EPWP must get R11? Are we not passing the buck to the private sector?” he asked. The conditions of the workers are the responsibility of government, he argued: “You are the biggest employer and many of the most vulnerable people in our society are employed through EPWP. Let us include them as normal workers.”

In response, he heard that the EPWP was a scheme intended to equip people with skills while drawing an income.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Fezi Loliwe, said the process was now for MPs to take the Bill forward. “At the end of the day, we should do something that will benefit our people.”

Other pieces of legislation that were tabled at the Committee were the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill.

Sibongile Maputi
31 January 2018