Employment and Labour minister Thulas Nxesi has announced that a new minimum wage will come into effect from 1 March 2021.
While the move has been welcomed by some labour unions, others have warned that the increase could have a major knock-on impact for South Africa’s already ailing economy.
“We received feedback from a wide range of farmers and other role players in the value chain, which indicates that they will be forced to make amendments to accommodate these changes,” said Henry Geldenhuys, president of Agricultural union TAU SA.
“Unfortunately, most of them have decided to close all labour intensive divisions like growing vegetables to switch to more mechanised ways of producing food.”
Geldenhuys said that the changes would mostly affect unschooled workers and lead to them falling into unemployment.
“None of the role players want workers to earn an unreasonable remuneration or to lose their jobs,” said Geldenhuys.
“We only want the government to realise that farmers cannot afford the increased wages. Any producer must see profitability as a priority to farm sustainably. When it affects profit, a farmer must make adjustments.”
These concerns have been echoed by the political party the Freedom Front Plus and the LWO Employers Organisation.
The role players groups further suggested legal recourse and political and public pressure to prevent the increase from being implemented.
They said that the process needs the cooperation of all role players in the value chain to protect agriculture’s sustainability and decided the following:
- Agriculture will declare a dispute with the minister of labour and employment regarding the irrational announcement. In this regard they will ask the minister – during an official meeting – to put the minimum wage on ice until the dispute can be settled;
- The Freedom Front Plus will officially discuss the matter in parliament with both the ministers of labour and agriculture;
- The LWO Employers organisation will create a guiding document to highlight the available legal remedies;
- To initiate the legal process to test the irrational action in the court;
- The agricultural industry will increase public pressure and encourage as many role players to support the matter, financially or otherwise. In this regard, the group will create petitions in support of the affected workers.
Updated minimum wage
In a gazette published on Monday evening (8 February), the minister said that the national minimum wage is now R21.69 for each ordinary hour. This change will take effect from 1 March 2021.
The gazette also provides exceptions for a number of worker groups
- Farmworkers are entitled to a minimum wage of R21.69 per hour;
- Domestic workers are entitled to a minimum wage of R19.09 per hour;
- Workers employed on an expanded public works programme are entitled to a minimum wage of R11.93 per hour.
In terms of the law it is an unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally alter hours of work or other conditions of employment in implementing the national minimum wage.
The national minimum wage is the amount payable for the ordinary hours of work and does not include payment of allowances (such as transport, tools, food or accommodation) payments in kind (board or lodging), tips, bonuses and gifts.