While the National Minimum Wage Commission believes the earnings of farm workers as the lowest-paid labourers should be adjusted, TLU SA now calls on government to completely set aside the minimum wage to boost the economy.
In a media release the agricultural organisation says the minimum wage should be set aside until the economy and employment rates pick up. TLU SA has formally submitted comments against the proposed recommendations of the National Minimum Wage Commission.
“The lockdown regulations of 2020 severely damaged the South African economy, and thus a standard approach to adjusting the minimum wage will not be feasible,” said Henry Geldenhuys, president of TLU SA.
He believes the ability of employers to maintain the expenditure of salary levels before the introduction and implementation of lockdown regulations was severely affected, resulting in the highest levels of unemployment in recent history.
“Unemployment is the biggest threat to creating stability in the country and a future for South Africans. An increase thereof due to increasing the minimum wage will result in negative consequences.”
According to the National Minimum Wage Act the commission must review the minimum wage on an annual basis. It has recommended that minimum wage for farm workers be increased to R21.69 per hour.
2 million farm and domestic workers
The Mail & Guardian reports that farm and domestic workers have been excluded from labour legislation aimed at protecting workers’ rights. This did not change when the National Minimum Wage Bill was first introduced in 2018.
Though the proposed R20 an hour minimum wage was widely considered too low, it was set even lower for farm and domestic workers at R18 and R15 an hour respectively. This is despite these two groups representing almost two million workers.
However, Geldenhuys argues that a minimum wage “stands in the way of the freedom of choice of jobseekers. If someone chooses to work for R100 a day getting experience and an income, rather than receiving a grant of R40 a day, it should be their choice. More than ever before, what the country needs now is increased employment, resulting in counter-poverty outcomes.”
The TLU SA president furthermore urged government to review its approach to labour matters.
“Each decision should be tested by its effect on economic growth. The government should create initiatives for business to employ more labourers instead of creating unemployment. South Africa’s policy environment is unfavourable to trade and investment. The best outcome for the country, business and labour will be when market powers regulate labour,” said Geldenhuys.