The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is calling for the annual increase to the national minimum wage to be above inflation.
This despite a shrinking economy and a relatively slow start to the enforcement of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Act since its inception this year.
By the beginning of this month, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) had received 1,073 minimum wage referrals.
Cosatu parliamentary organiser Matthew Parks said less than 1% of these cases were referred by SA’s 1,400 labour inspectors.
The annual consumer rate increased to 4.5% in May, up from 4.4% in April.
In addition to the country’s first increase in the national minimum wage, the labour federation wants government to force inspectors to be more proactive in sniffing out cases involving basic conditions of employment, especially minimum wage.
The NMW Act provides for a R20 an hour minimum wage, or R3,500 per month.
Scores of workers have complained to The Citizen about a lack of compliance, which means this legislation requires proactive enforcement.
Restaurant chain Mugg & Bean (M&B) recently came under fire after it emerged its waitrons were forced to pay breakage fees in addition to earning on a commission basis. While the franchise acknowledged concerns, it insisted it was following the law.
According to Parks, plans are under way to apply additional pressure on outlets which are allegedly failing to comply.
“… we have asked the Saccawu (South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union) deputy general-secretary [Mduduzi Mbongwe] to visit that shop and have found that it was not the same shop we ended up visiting last time.
“Saccawu will formally request a meeting with the manager of that M&B and eventually we want to meet with Mugg & Bean as a national operation and with the bargaining council,” said Parks.
He added that the latter had been slow to react to the several cases of labour law violation allegations in the industry since the enactment of the NMW Act.
Cosatu was working on an amendment Bill which would see fines payable by employers for minimum wage violations to be awarded directly to the workers.
Currently the Act provides for a fine amounting to 100% of the wage in dispute, with an exponential increase for each due amount.
“We are also working with the labour department to set up a toll-free number where a worker can … report if they are not being paid minimum wage and give the location of the [place of work].
“A labour inspector can go straight to that factory and enforce whatever fines are applicable and the matter can be resolved at a much faster pace.”