Mar 2019 2nd Edition

Minimum wage, a victory for workers

Written by Siya Miti

The long-awaited NMW is making a difference and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

The NMW of R20 per hour or R3 500 per month, which came into effect on 1 January, will protect vulnerable workers from exploitation. 

Proclaimed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in November 2018, the minimum wage has received the nod from the Congress of South African Trade Unions as the first step towards a living wage for about 6.4 million workers in the retail, security and cleaning services sectors.

While this is great news for most workers, East London security guard Zolile Binta said they had to go on a strike to get confirmation that they would get the R20 per hour wage. 

“We are going to get it [the minimum wage] this month for the first time. From 2010 to January this year, we got R11 per hour. We work in a risky industry and we need more than R20 per hour.

“I have seven children, the youngest is 17. Our children can’t find work and my wife is a housewife. Even the minimum wage is not enough. However, it will make some difference because previously we received between R1 500 and R2 000,” said Binta.

Another security guard Nombeko Zenani said the minimum wage would make a big difference in her life and would protect workers from exploitation. 

The local organiser of the Democratic Transport Logistic Allied Workers Union, Melumzi Ndongeni, said although the minimum wage would make a difference in many worker’s lives, some employers were finding a way to get around it by reducing the number of hours they work per shift. 

“It will make a difference, but there are still some issues that need to be ironed out. Yes, the minimum wage was signed into law, but very few companies comply. Some businesses that have been paying over R25 per hour for instance, reduced the rate to R20 per hour, claiming they are struggling. There is nothing that can be done about it because they are compliant,” said Ndongeni.

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