South Africa’s public hearings into minimum worker’s wage begin

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

At the start of public hearings about a possible regulated national minimum worker’s wage yesterday, the Democratic Alliance dismissed the process as an ANC “political game”.

The countrywide hearings, organised by Parliament’s portfolio committee on labour, kicked off at the Gugulethu Sports Complex yesterday. A second day of hearings at the Paarl East Thusong Centre is planned for today.

Lumka Yengeni, the committee’s chairwoman, said the hearings would take place in all nine provinces and likely conclude by June next year.

Parliament's portfolio committee on labour has started public hearings into a minimum wage for South Africans, with its chairwoman Lumka Yengeni (right) leading proceedings. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Parliament’s portfolio committee on labour has started public hearings into a minimum wage for South Africans, with its chairwoman Lumka Yengeni (right) leading proceedings. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Ian Ollis, the DA’s committee member, said the process would cost R7,2-million while Yengeni said the budget had not yet been confirmed.

Ollis said the ANC was merely using the public hearings to “show they care about workers”.

“The ANC is using this as an electioneering campaign, especially in the Western Cape. We don’t have a draft policy or regulations yet on minimum wage,” said Ollis.

“I’m concerned we’re giving people false hope. We should have waited until we had a proposal and then ask for public comment.”

He added: “This is a waste of time. It’s a political game.”

Ollis said a minimum wage could have disastrous consequences for small businesses which “could collapse” as they would not be able to afford paying proposed salaries.

Yengeni said Ollis and the DA “would rubbish anything the ANC is saying”.

“It’s not only ANC members who are getting slave wages. The crowd that the DA rents when they go for marches, that crowd sleeps without food. They earn slave wages,” said Yengeni.

“Ollis is not talking for the poor. He is talking for the rich. If it cared about the poor, it would be concerned that the wage gap should be done away with. They would be caring about people in townships.”

She accused the DA of “surviving on distortions”.

Domestic workers, security guards and unemployed locals told the committee about how they were exploited. They called for a monthly minimum wage of R5000.

Domestic worker Bukelwa Mnweba said she earned only R560 a month.

Nontando Mhlabeni said foreign nationals were willing to work for R800 a month, making it difficult for locals to negotiate better wages.

“How can you take a job for R800 a month? You have families and you need to eat. Foreigners take these jobs because they come here with only a bag on their backs,” said Mhlabeni.

“There’s a solution. Parliament is here. They will listen to our complaints and wishes.”

She also blamed unions for encouraging workers to stay in jobs even if they get low salaries.

“They tell workers if they talk to the employer about increasing the salary you could lose your job. They sell our people to protect their jobs,” said Mhlabeni.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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