Ramaphosa upbeat about ‘magical’ minimum wage figure

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday the “magical figure” that everyone has been waiting for is to be discussed over the weekend‚ taking South Africa one step closer to the implementation of a national minimum wage.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Federation of Unions of South Africa conference on Friday‚ Ramaphosa said it was an exciting moment for all partners — government‚ business‚ labour and community-based organisations — and an indication of “meaningful progress”.

Issues such as the national minimum wage‚ strike balloting and putting an end to lengthy and violent strikes are at the centre of discussions between the partners in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

Labour stability is a key focus for ratings agencies‚ which are in the country to review South Africa’s credit rating.

Ramaphosa said Nedlac partners will meet on Sunday to receive a report from a panel of advisers he appointed to look into the issue of a minimum wage.

“The report deals with what the minimum wage in the country should be … that proposal contains the figure‚ the magical figure that everybody has been waiting for. We will discuss it and we will then publicise it on Sunday‚” Ramaphosa said.

“Thereafter it will be discussed across the length and breadth of the nation and thereafter we will discuss the mechanics‚ once it’s accepted‚ on how it’s going to work and how it will change over time‚ when it will be implemented and so forth.

“We will also be dealing with the issues of labour stability‚ issues regarding long strikes‚ violence during strikes.”

Labour has been frustrated with the slow pace of talks about a minimum wage‚ which was proposed by labour federation Cosatu in 2012.

Two years later‚ the ANC agreed to consider a minimum wage and this formed part of its election manifesto.

Talks in Nedlac have been ongoing. Labour has resisted the idea of strike balloting‚ but Ramaphosa was upbeat about the prospects of reaching finality on difficult matters.

He said labour stability had been a key issue when he recently met ratings agency Fitch. It wanted to know whether strike balloting would be part of the agreements set to be reached in Nedlac.

“We said‚ ‘Yes‚ it will.’ They wanted to hear about the minimum wage‚ we said ‘Yes‚ we are going to almost reach finality on that‚” Ramaphosa said.

“By and large the meeting went well. They took in the information in a good way‚ I would say.

“I also briefed them on the state-owned enterprise process‚ and they seemed satisfied with the progress that we are making on that score‚ creating a more investment-conducive climate in our country.”

But Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini said on Friday that the federation remained opposed to strike balloting.

He said it already formed part of the Labour Relations Act and some constitutions of individual unions. However‚ the government and business were seeking to introduce a new ballot to put to workers when an offer is made during a strike.

Dlamini was cautious about the prospects of Sunday’s meeting reaching finality on the minimum wage. “Let’s first see what the report says.”


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