COSATU notes with extreme disappointment the paltry 3.8% increase in the National Minimum Wage (NMW)

COSATU notes with extreme disappointment the paltry 3.8% increase in the National Minimum Wage (NMW). This is too little, too late and it amounts to rubbing salt in the wounds of the most impoverished and exploited workers.  COSATU and workers are extremely disappointed with this meager increase because 3.8% will make very little difference for workers battling to provide for their families. Inflation is decimating the wages of the working-class families with electricity, fuel and other hikes that are far above the 3.8% increase.

Whilst the NMW came into effect on 1 January 2019, the actual amount of R20 was agreed to in March 2017.  Over the past 3 years inflation has been 12.5% and not the 3.8% increase effected by the Commission.  The NMW Act compels the Commission to review the NMW annually to protect it from inflation and from being eroded by cost of living increases etc.  By only adjusting the NMW for 3.8% and not 12.5%, the Commission has failed to meet its legal and moral obligations.

The increase will only come into effect in March 2020.  The NMW Act requires the Commission to review the NMW level annually and undertake the necessary adjustments.  Yet it failed to meet in 2019 to do precisely that.  It only met in January 2020 to review the NMW level.  This failure to meet has meant workers have had to wait longer for their increase.  Unlike at a workplace when increases may be delayed and then backdated, this is not physically possible to enforce and is not provided for in law with the NMW and hence the need for the NMW to do its work timeously.

The NMW Act and Agreement compels the NMW Commission to review the impact of the NMW on the farm and domestic workers with the objective of ensuring they are fast-tracked to reach 100% by January 2021.  The across the board 3.8% increase for all 4 levels of the NMW has failed to begin to reduce the gap between the pegged levels for farm and domestic workers with the NMW

It defies logic to increase the NMW levels to amounts ending in cents e.g. R20.76, R18.68, R15.57 and R11.42.  Most workers paid the NMW receive the payments in cash and not EFTs.  The Reserve Bank no longer issues 5, 2 and 1 cent coins. 

Unfortunately, workers cannot afford to wait any longer for their increases and thus must come into effect.  However, this does not absolve the NMW Commission and government from the responsibilities under the NMW Act to protect it from being eroded by inflation and to remain a progressive poverty alleviation tool.  The Commission must now begin its work on assessing the impact of the NMW and to ensure that NMW receives a substantial increase in 2021 and that farm, domestic and public works programme are pushed to 100% of the NMW by 1 January 2021.

For further information please contact: Matthew Parks- COSATU Parliamentary Coordinator-Cell: 082 785 0687-Email: