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Ramaphosa: Proposed timeline for minimum wage not rigid

A panel of advisors has suggested a starting level of R3,500 which would be reconsidered annually.

FILE: Deputy Presidednt Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says the proposed timeline of when a national minimum wage will take effect is not rigid as all the social partners need to discuss where to benchmark the figure.

A panel of advisors has suggested a starting level of R3,500 which would be reconsidered annually if implemented.

Business, unions and South Africans have been called upon to debate the proposal but also consider that the amount cannot be too high other as there could be a negative impact on employment.

Ramaphosa says while the announcement is an important part of the process, more discussion needs to happen

“Government included, I looked at government colleagues and I say, guys you ministers, high-flying ministers, what do you say? Does the deputy president allow us to go read the report, interact with it and discuss it?”

Panel chair Imraan Valodia says the purpose of a proposed timeline is to give business and the unions time to readjust and amend their labour laws and constitutions according to the proposal that has been made.

The deputy president says from government’s side the suggested amount will be taken to Cabinet for review.

SOUTH AFRICANS ASKED TO DEBATE

Ramaphosa has called on South Africans and various sectors to debate the proposed national minimum wage in order for the policy to be implemented soon.

Research has found that nearly 50% of working South Africans live below the proposed figure.

Ramaphosa says while there needs to be debate around the proposed figure it cannot be too high as this could have negative employment effects.

“The key question that all of us need to ask ourselves as South Africans is, where do you want to peg the national minimum wage, because it’s a contradiction? You may want a high figure of R20,000 but you may wipe out a lot of jobs.”

Research has also considered that there is a gendered nature of poverty in the country where women earn the lowest and are mainly among the poorest.

While there are arguments that such a policy intervention should ideally take place when the economy is strong, it's been argued that some intervention is needed to protect the most vulnerable.

RAMAPHOSA TO MEET WITH AGENCIES

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa says he will be meeting with the ratings agencies and alerting them to the possible implications of a national minimum wage.

He says there has been agreement among the social partners to have workers vote on whether or not they want to go on strike

“And it’s been broadly agreed that there should be balloting before strikes and this has been a phenomenal success.”

But Federation of Unions of South Africa's Dennis George says this shows a trust deficit.

“Why would you ask the next person to do a ballot? It’s because you want to more clarify what's really happening.”

The report has proposed a timeline for a national minimum wage to be implemented by July 2019.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)