Cosatu: Workers shouldn't expect any news on minimum wage

The union has accused business of dragging its feet in reaching an agreement on the national minimum wage.

Cosatu leadership at a press briefing on 03 February 2016. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has warned workers not to expect an announcement about the implementation of a national minimum wage due to the stark differences that remain between labour and big business.

Cosatu this week took part in a symposium on the matter at Wits University, but the event was not attended by big business representatives and featured only a small delegation from government.

It's blamed big business for the slow pace of the talks.

The minimum wage was due to be announced at the end of last year.

Cosatu's Bheki Ntshalintshali has laid the blame for the lack of progress on a national minimum wage at the doorstep of big business.

"Unfortunately business has been dragging here. They do every trick in the book not to engage honestly."

He says next weeks' State of the Nation Address is unlikely to feature good news on the talks.

"The report is going to be a weak report because not much progress has been done.

Labour expert and chairman of one of the sessions at the symposium, Dr John Reynolds, says the problems have been caused by differing estimations.

"Business and treasury have used a very conservative model. The model that was developed, for example, for the national minimum wage research initiative has shown that 74,000 would not have adverse consequences."

While business has proposed a wage of around R1,800, labour is proposing around R4,000.

Meanwhile, Cosatu has warned that quality work with good pay and added benefits is increasingly being replaced with precarious jobs which exploit workers.

The federation says jobs in the mining and retail industry are being cut at an alarming rate, citing the most recent announcement from Lonmin that it needs to shed 35,000 workers.

Ntshalintshali says in the retail sector, Cosatu unions have received an increasing number of retrenchment notices.

He says this is very deeply concerning.

"Mines are going to be retrenching. We are being told that in the retail, there are a number of big companies that are retrenching jobs. The difference is that jobs that are being created are temporary in nature, and lowly paid. They are not quality jobs."