Valentine’s a ‘day of mourning’ for SA restaurants as new regulations gazetted

Parkhurst restaurant owners, staff, patrons along 7th and 4th streets in Johannesburg on 22 July 2020, during the protest against the restrictions imposed by lockdown on restaurants. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Alberts has expressed concern that the new regulations involved more money being spent by the sector, in the middle of the State of Disaster. 

A newly formed bargaining council in the restaurant sector has hit the ground running, after implementing a new remuneration agreement. 

But the agreement’s impact will be severe for the industry, which is already struggling to keep doors open, said Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) chief executive officer (CEO) Wendy Alberts.  

The agreement was established by the Bargaining Council for the Fast Food, Restaurant, Catering and Allied Trades (BCFFRCAT), as well as a handful of unions. 

Even those that do not form part of the council must adhere to the updated regulations, which according to the government gazette, is prohibited from being negotiated on any further.

The only businesses exempt from the regulations are casinos and hotels – whose activities are ancillary and incidental; catering facets owned, managed or operated by sports clubs; food served at petrol stations and outlets that sell food as part of a supermarket. 

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In short, these regulations dictate that more money must be paid to employees. This is not the issue, however. 

Alberts expressed concern that the new regulations involved more money being spent by the sector, in the middle of the State of Disaster. 

“The issue we have is not if the content of the agreement is viable, but the timing. They can’t issue new regulations in the time of a disaster – it is unfavourable for the industry.”

Notable regulations in the gazette

Hourly rates were set to change from Monday, with steady increases over years, until 31 August 2026. 

All full-time employees must also receive one week’s wages as an annual bonus in December if they have worked for a company for 12 consecutive months, and two week’s wages for 24 consecutive employment or more. 

No deductions may be made to an employee’s remuneration, unless it is required or allowed in terms of a law, collective agreement, court order or arbitration award, or if the employee agrees to the deduction in writing. 

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Employees that clean their own uniforms must be paid R17.50 by their employer per week.

R5 will be deducted from all employee wages for the expenses of the BCFFRCAT. Dispute resolutions by the BCFFRCAT will cost workers R3. Employers must pay each amount deducted from each employee to the council, in addition to R25 per month. There is also a 5% council collection fee. 

Businesses with less than 10 employees can apply to be exempt from the wage increases laid out in the gazette.

‘No transparency or collaboration’

Alberts slammed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s continued calls for collaboration from all sectors, saying that restaurants were “constantly fighting fires because there hasn’t been transparency. The industry has been decimated”.

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She revealed that another 50,000 workers were recently permanently laid off. 

In addition to factoring in the new regulations, restaurants are in the midst of an impossible juggling act, Alberts listed the following as just some of the problems facing many businesses: third-party insurance costs; no insurance payouts; landlords in tricky negotiations with tenants; banks taking back temporary loans and court orders to pay out.

Government “needs to plan better”, adding that the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) was not paying out. 

Alberts said many restaurants could not even afford to retrench their staff and offer packages, “they just liquidate their business”.

She said she received hundreds of phone calls everyday from restaurant owners who did not know where else to turn. 

“We are really suffering. We are decimated. Valentine’s Day is going to be a day of mourning for the restaurant industry. It’s not going to be a day of love.”

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