Labour Minister looking at national minimum wage

Cape Town – Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant says her department will launch a major investigation into the modalities for the introduction of a national minimum wage in a bid to close pay inequalities.

The Minister also said amendments to the Labour Relations Act would be finalised in a bid to ensure that the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) can intervene when employers and trade unions reach a deadlock during bargaining talks.

Minister Oliphant was talking to journalists in Pretoria, on Wednesday, following her Budget Vote on Tuesday.

“As a country, we don’t have a national minimum wage. But we thought that based on the challenges that we are faced with, particularly when you look at the wage gap between the employers, the employees, we have to look at a possibility to ensure that everybody is paid according to what we think is going to be a living wage,” she said.

She said this following President Jacob Zuma’s announcement during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last month, where he made a call for a possible introduction of a minimum wage to be looked at.

She said the investigation would also look at whether to introduce a country-wide minimum wage for all sectors, or maybe have pay structures for different sectors introduced based on the nature of their work.

The Minister said the investigation would also see the department benchmarking South Africa with other countries.

“When you look at the mining sector, you find that in the gold sector, rock drill operators are paid a different salary, while in the platinum sector they are paid a certain amount of money. All of them are doing the same job. The question is why do you have people doing the same job and not being paid equally,” she said.

Meanwhile, the minister said, the department was in the process of finalising the amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act which will greatly enhance inspection and enforcement work.

She said the Employment Equity Act had been assented by the President and the Regulations have been finalised, adding that the process to publish them for general information is underway.