The Department of Employment and Labour announced that the National Minimum Wage (NMW) in South Africa will increase by 4.5% to R21.69 per hour from March 1, 2021.

Farmworkers will now earn the full minimum wage. Prior to the wage hike, they earned R18.68 (90% of the NMW).

Domestic workers and gardeners are now entitled to R19,09 per hour, up from R15.57. They will now earn 88% of the minimum wage, whereas they were only entitled to 75% before.

Domestic workers can expect to earn more in future as the Labour Department said the sector will be aligned with the minimum wage at the next review.

“It is illegal and an unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally alter hours of work or other conditions of employment in implementing the NMW,” said Thulas Nxesi, the Minister of Employment and Labour.

The NMW is paid to workers for ordinary hours of work. Allowances or payments in kind such as transport fees, tools, food, accommodation, board and lodging, tips, bonuses and gifts are not taken into consideration.

Farmer’s union, TLU SA was not pleased with the decision to give farmworkers the full minimum wage, as they believe it will lead to an increase in unemployment and food prices, according to the Citizen.

Unions have argued against the wage increase since it was first proposed in 2020. TLU SA previously suggested government set aside the NMW until the economy and employment rates improve.

Free State Agriculture (FSA) said the wage increase was implemented despite their and other institutions” objections, which is a blow because it is difficult to produce food in the present economic climate.

“Time will tell, but this ill-considered decision will force farmers to put alternatives in place to survive economically,” said Francois Wilken, the president of FSA.

“Farmers are unable to absorb these levels of remuneration,” said Henry Geldenhuysm president of TLU SA. “We shudder when thinking of the consequences of unemployment in South Africa when the government implements the increased hourly rate.”

Geldenhuys also said: “If people choose to work for R100 per day for an income, rather than receiving a grant of R40 per day, it should be their choice. More than ever before, what the country needs now is increased employment, resulting in counter-poverty outcomes.”

Gafieldien Benjamin, the general secretary of workers union, Afriwu, took exception to this statement and questioned why there was a distinction between the minimum wage for farm workers and other job categories, according to agricultural news outlet, Food For Mzansi.

“Those who make the comparison between work income and social grants are obfuscating and trying to confuse matters,” said Benjamin.

“No working adult in this country must earn less than R100 per day.”


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