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The Portfolio Committee on Labour is continuing with receiving oral submissions from various stakeholders on the National Minimum Wage Bill.

Among the stakeholders that will appear before the committee are the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Wits University, Women on Farms Project, and African Consolidated Legal Services.

The committee heard on Thursday that some sectors needed to be temporarily exempted from the national minimum wage as that could impact negatively on business leading to most shutting down.

Shukumisa Coalition’s, Ms Lisa Vetten, told the Committee that focus tended to be on farm workers and domestic workers when the issue of national minimum wage came up.

The social welfare sector is equally vulnerable. We are asking for an exemption for this sector until such time where conditions in the sector are improved and made fair. We have to take seriously the role DSD (the Department of Social Development) has to children,” she said.

“There is no space given for the sector at National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). This is a big sector and large category of workforce and it is highly feminised,” she said.

She said the expert panel to investigate the impact of the national minimum wage, should be set-up and that the exemption request for the sector is only temporary.

Organised labour, represented by three federations, Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa welcomed and supported the bill and said although this was not an utopian dream, at least it was essentially a starting point in the right direction.

Mr Ettiene Vlock, organised labour representative, said the national minimum wage had a potential to boost the economy and will help stimulate demand.

“The R20 per hour is not a living wage, no sectoral wage introduced can be below that level. Although this is significantly below what we wanted, but we are living with it. If one is starting at that level, we should ensure that the legislation is fixed and ensure that the figure is not eroded even further,” he said.

“Parliament should make it clear once the commission is set up that the increases in the minimum wage should be real. The value of the minimum wage cannot be eroded, and it should not be less than the previous year plus inflation,” he said.

Members sought clarity on a number of submissions including an idea that salaries should also be capped and the increase of four hours to five hours a day. Other issues that came during the debate included the impact on jobs, and foreign nationals coming to the country to benefit.

The Acting Chairperson Ms Sharome van Schalkwyk said the committee was prepared to work extensively to do justice to the process and that all the stakeholders will be heard.

Entities that presented on day one included Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, organised labour, and the Free Market Foundation.

By Sibongile Maputi

23 March 2018