The controversial National Minimum Wage Bill was officially passed in parliament on Tuesday, and is being received with mixed reactions from workers and unions. The bill sets minimum wages at R3,500 per month (R20 an hour), except for farmworkers and domestic workers.

After months of hearings, discussions and protests from unions and the public, the bill was passed by just one vote more than the required 50%. During the discussion in parliament on Tuesday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Front (EFF) walked out to show their disagreement with the contentious bill – saying the wage offer was too low.

Concerns around the bill included complaints that the increase was too high, some said it was too low and others had issues about when it would be implemented.

The farm/forestry sector’s minimum wage is now R18 an hour – domestic workers will get R15 an hour and Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers will receive R11. These amounts are not set in stone, and will be reconsidered after two years.

Moleko Phakedi, General Secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), told EWN that government is trying to handcuff workers by passing this bill.

“It is expecting to fight against employers who are not willing to come to terms with the argument they’re proposing in terms of wages. The important thing must be understood is that the right to strike is a constitutional right.”

And Sizwe Pamla from Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) disagreed, saying that Saftu misinterpreted the terms of the bill.

“We do not want workers to be bullied, to be intimidated and a secret ballot empowers workers because it allows them to be able to exercise that right without fear.”

Parliament has adjourned for a two-month recess to prepare for 2019’s national elections. The bill will be sent to the National Council of Provinces first, before being signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa.


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