Saftu presses ahead with nationwide protest over 'poverty-level' minimum wage

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File: The proposed "poverty-level" national minimum wage is R20 an hour.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) will go ahead with its planned nationwide mass mobilisation of workers to protest against the proposed "poverty-level" national minimum wage of R20 an hour and amendments to labour laws, the trade union federation said on Sunday.

Saftu had noted the decision of the parliamentary portfolio committee on labour to refer the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Bill back to the labour department to be redrafted so that it included the public input received by the committee, Saftu said in a statement.

"One of the public’s submissions was that made by Saftu on 17 April and the federation will seek to ensure that our views are reflected in the new draft," Saftu said.

It said the committee’s acting chairwoman Sharome van Schalkwyk had said, “this piece of legislation is critical in our country, not only in fighting inequality, but also addressing abuse of the vulnerable workers in some sectors, that it will change the lives of the vulnerable for a long time, and that it must be close to perfection when it is tabled before the National Assembly”.

"The federation is, however, very concerned that she added that the suggested minimum R20 per hour amount in the NMW Bill was a starting figure that would be reviewed yearly. Saftu disagrees that reviewing the R20 an hour poverty wage every year will in any way alter the fact that it will still be a poverty wage on which no-one should be expected to live. "

READ: Saftu marches on parliament over living wage

It perpetuated and legitimised the unequal apartheid wage structure, would keep millions of workers mired in poverty, and would make South Africa an even more unequal society, Saftu said.

"She [Van Schalkwyk] also claimed that the legislation, presumably referring to the amendments to various labour laws, will not take away the right to strike as is often claimed. Saftu, however, insists that these amendments do indeed threaten the right to strike because of the number of procedural obstacles which trade unions will have to overcome before they can declare a strike which is protected."

Saftu demanded that the labour department "does not just tinker with the details of the bill, but makes fundamental changes so that the minimum wage becomes a living wage that it applies across the board with no exemptions and that it will be rigorously enforced".

"We are forging ahead with the mass mobilisation of workers on 25 April. This will be a nationwide general strike and marches throughout the country to protest against the proposed poverty-level NMW of R20 an hour and amendments to labour laws which will destroy workers constitutional right to strike," Saftu said.