On the face of it, the difference between determining a minimum wage on an hourly rate of R20 rather than a monthly pay cheque of R3 500, the widely criticised call by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa last December might seem miniscule.
Yet the agreement reached by negotiators under the umbrella of the National Economic Development and Labour Council, which was headed up by Ramaphosa, came under strong fire from trade union federation Cosatu on several fronts and Tuesday’s proposed signing of the accord has been indefinitely postponed.
But as Cosatu rightly pointed out, this hourly rate would hardly make a dent in the lives of the poor, or we would suggest, do anything significant to ease an unemployment rate currently standing at a conservative official figure of 27%.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla criticised the agreement, saying the ANC had failed to implement its policy to radically transform the economy, and branding the proposal “ridiculous”.
“We made it very clear that the minimum wage is not just about having a wage,” Pamla is also on record as saying. “It’s about having one that makes a difference to South African lives.”
Some of the major sticking points for Cosatu would seem to be the accompanying “code of good conduct for collective bargaining, industrial action and picketing” built into the hourly wage agreement.
This has been seen for some time by unions as the only effective tool at their disposal, and a restriction of the number of hours a worker is contracted to work in a week although the terms of employment cannot be altered once they have been agreed to by both employer and worker.
But while Cosatu does not endorse the proposed level of the monthly minimum wage, there has been tacit agreement from unions that this is the preferable course to follow.
We await developments.