Call for minimum wage for foreigners
The government's implementation of a minimum wage must benefit all workers, including foreigners, if it is aimed at fighting poverty and eliminating inequality.
These were the sentiments of Neil Coleman, a Cosatu official and spokesman for the labour wage inequality task team at Nedlac.
"A lot of South Africans are not prepared to work in construction, hotel, trade, domestic and [farms] because conditions are so exploitative," he told a symposium on the implementation of the national minimum wage yesterday.
Coleman said research showed that South Africans were not making themselves available for low-paying jobs and foreigners were taking up the "unwanted" jobs.
"If the minimum wage is set at a meaningful level, youth who are unemployed would make themselves available in those sectors at those higher wages," he said.
Malaysian National Wages Consultative Council representative Shanmugan Thiagarajan said the national minimum wage in Malaysia was inclusive of foreigners, but employers who chose to employ them were required to pay a levy to the government.
"Because foreigners do not pay working tax to the government the employers are made to pay the levy on their behalf and this deters employers from employing foreigners over locals," said Thiagarajan.
Labour law expert Debbie Collier said the reason intervention was needed was to fix distortions in the labour market.
"Without a national minimum wage we have high levels of unemployment and an over-supply of low-skilled workers leaves a gap for exploitation," she said.