President Cyril Ramaphosa says the implementation of the national minimum wage will be a historic victory for workers in South Africa.
Ramaphosa, speaking on Tuesday at the Workers’ Day rally hosted by Cosatu, addressed the highly contested debate on the proposed minimum wage, which was meant to be implemented officially from May 1, but has now been delayed.
“Within the next few months, workers in our country are going to achieve another historic victory with the introduction of a national minimum wage for all working South Africans. This is a victory no matter what other people may say,” he said.
“Many workers in Cosatu, to be clear, are earning way above the minimum wage, but Cosatu – to fulfil its revolutionary objective of lifting the working conditions of all workers – said that the minimum wage must benefit all the workers in our country,” Ramaphosa said.
He said when the ANC gained power in 1994, only 8 million South African citizens were working, but today 16 million people are part of the workforce.
“Out of that 16 million people, 6.6 million earn less than R20 an hour. They earn less than R3 000 [a month]. This is the case in a number of industries, in the farms and even our homes,” he said.
Ramaphosa explained that the minimum wage of R20 an hour is meant to be a stepping stone towards incremental increases, to avert job losses.
“We knew R20 an hour was not a living wage, but we needed to form a foundation. If we said workers had to earn R15 000, many people would lose their jobs. We concluded that the struggle for a living wage must continue, but we must start somewhere,” he continued.
Cosatu fights for workers’ freedoms daily
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini asserted the union’s position in the fight for the rights of workers in the country.
“This Cosatu remains a formidable voice representing the voiceless, the poor in this country, and no one will take that away,” Dlamini said.
He went on to dismiss naysayers, saying he doesn’t “mind liars”.
“I’m not going to spend my breath trying to correct liars, when the new leadership, sitting behind me, have said it all. All I want to say is, let’s keep going on. Let’s stay focused. Let us not be detracted by those who wish that they were born yesterday, when they were born just now,” he said.
He emphasised that Cosatu fights for the freedoms of workers every day.
“Yes indeed, the national minimum wage is very important for the 6.6 million people who are workers and who have been excluded and paid peanuts. Some earn less than R1 000 a month. They will indeed see an increase of over R2 500 in their pockets when this national minimum wage is introduced,” he said.
Ramaphosa is the Trump of SA
Other unions however, have criticised the implementation of the minimum wage, with some calling it a “poverty wage”.
Last week, a general strike was held in which workers under the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) marched to various points across the country calling for the national minimum wage to be reworked. Saftu has demanded a minimum wage of R12 500 a month.
Saftu, which also held various Workers’ Day rallies around the country on Tuesday, addressed the implementation of the minimum wage.
Speaking in Bloemfontein, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary, Irvin Jim, referred to Ramaphosa as South Africa’s Donald Trump.
“Cyril Ramaphosa is the Trump of South Africa. He is supervising exploitation of black labour. If he was serious about the minimum wage, he would tell those bosses to open the books so we can see how much they are making. Ramaphosa represents [white monopoly] capital in South Africa,” Jim said strongly.
Numsa has been one of the loudest critics of the minimum wage debate. The union said the introduction of the minimum wage will sustain white monopoly capital.
“One of the things that Cosatu has lost, unfortunately, is the industrial proletariat,” Jim said.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has also been vocal about its resistance towards the national minimum wage bill.
“Furthermore, while we welcome the minimum wage in principle, we reject the set figure of R20 an hour. All these programs trap workers in low wages while companies and bosses live lavishly out of profits,” EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said on Tuesday.