South Africa looks into national minimum wage

22 July 2014

The Department of Labour is set to launch a major investigation into the possibility of introducing of a national minimum wage in order to bring down levels of inequality in the country, says Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.

Speaking to journalists in Pretoria last Wednesday, following her department’s budget vote in Parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday, Oliphant said that, given the disparities that existed in the country, “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”.

President Jacob Zuma signalled the move during his State of the Nation address last month, saying: “We will during this term investigate the possibility of a national minimum wage as one of the key mechanisms to reduce income inequality.”

Oliphant said the investigation would look at various possible models, including the model of a countrywide minimum wage that cut across all sectors of the economy, as well as the model of different pay structures for different sectors, based on the nature of their work.

“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.”

At the same time, the investigation would benchmark South Africa with other countries.

Oliphant also said her department would be finalising amendments to the Labour Relations Act in a bid to ensure that the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) could intervene when employers and trade unions reached a deadlock during bargaining talks.

Amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act were also being finalised which would greatly enhance her department’s inspection and enforcement work, she said.