Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to questions in Parliament on Wednesday.  Picture: GCIS
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

A PANEL tasked with investigating and developing a national minimum wage will give Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa a report on its findings in late October, Ramaphosa told the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Wednesday.

The deputy president appeared before the NCOP to respond to oral questions, a week after he appeared before the National Assembly to answer questions there.

Responding on Wednesday to a question from EFF member Tebogo Mokwele, on whether the development of a national minimum wage would be expedited, Ramaphosa said President Jacob Zuma called on National Economic Development and Labour Council partners, under the leadership of the deputy president, to look at wage inequality and violent wage strikes. A team of principals was established to determine modalities of a national minimum wage.

"Negotiations have been taking place in a technical task team, which would look at the national minimum wage in a introspective way. A number of proposals will lead to us developing a national minimum wage," said Ramaphosa.

He said while the government, labour and business were still committed to the principle of a national minimum wage, consideration could be needed in sectors such as domestic workers and agriculture workers, where wages were decided by a wage determination.

"I recently appointed a seven-person panel to advise on the appropriate level at which the national minimum wage can be set. They are in the process of reviewing all available research into a potential socioeconomic impact of a national minimum wage," he said.

Mokwele said that the matter of poverty and low wages was too urgent for South African workers to wait any further. Referring to Ramaphosa’s appearance in the National Assembly last week, she said the deputy president would rather "brag about flavoured condoms" than see workers’ wages improved.

"We have been in this engagement for too long. Delays by business and the deputy president will not help anyone. Can you make a concrete commitment to decent and living wage?" she asked.

Ramaphosa defended his performance during last week’s sitting and reiterated that business had agreed to a national minimum wage and that the government was "looking into the modalities".

Asked by Bronwynn Engelbrecht of the DA whether a national minimum wage would lead to a loss of jobs en masse as a result of employers being unable to afford the new wages, Ramaphosa said the result of this process could not be compared to past wage increases in the agriculture sector.

"That situation came as a shock and most employers had not prepared or budgeted for it. A number of those employees were re-employed. As much as there are still a number of workers still jobless, that number of unemployed has shrunk to a minimum," he said.

Ramaphosa said he did not foresee a situation where workers who earned well over what was eventually decided as the minimum wage would have their wages reduced. He said employers can not reduce their employees’ wages without due consultation.