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Thu Nov 27 20:26:32 CAT 2014

Cosatu puts wage debate on hold

Sapa | 20 September, 2012 00:05
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi addresses delegates at Cosatu's national congress at Gallagher Estate yesterday Picture: DANIEL BORN

A debate on the national minimum wage was put on hold on Wednesday at the 11th national congress of the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Delegates at the congress in Midrand, Johannesburg, debated whether there should be a national minimum wage or sectoral minimum wage.

National Education and Health Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) general secretary Fikile Majola said his union supported a national minimum wage.

"This will move lower paid workers up... That is part of closing the inequalities," he told delegates.

"Without that there is no Lula moment."

He was referring to former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was in office from 2003 to 2011.

Lula's first terms was fraught with difficulties, but in his second term, he engineered a dramatic turnaround, improving the living standards of Brazil's working class.

Majola said setting a minimum wage would not have a negative impact on employment as some believed.

Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said a collective bargaining conference would be held next year to finalise the matter.

However, he pointed out that in June last year a similar conference was held with no outcome.

"... Unions didn't take us seriously, they preferred to go to political issues than deal with this issue," Vavi said.

"We can't pretend there has been no discussion." Some Cosatu affiliates were opposing a national minimum wage.

The issue was part of Cosatu's organisational report.

According to the report there were 12 sectoral determinations which set minimum wages and working conditions for specific sectors.

It was worrying that these minimum wages and working conditions were set by sectoral determination, which were not negotiated, rather than by the bargaining council agreements.

"An initial national minimum wage set at say R2800, while still low, would have an immediate positive impact on millions of workers...," the report said.

"This national minimum would be a legislated basic wage floor, below which no worker could fall." Cosatu said there were two possible ways to calculate a possible minimum wage.

It could be based on a minimum living level, although South Africa does not have an agreed standard.

The second way of calculating a minimum wage is to look at the proportion of the average minimum wage to the national average wage.

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