The DA’s pledge to scrap the National Minimum Wage is a brutal reminder that it cannot be trusted with the lives of workers

The Democratic Alliance (DA)’s election manifesto pledge to scrap the National Minimum Wage, that has raised the wages of six million impoverished workers across the economy, is a brutal reminder that it cannot be trusted with the lives of workers.  The DA’s manifesto and pledge will condemn millions of workers to absolute poverty. 

We hope the DA is telling the working class voters of Mitchell’s Plain and Bishop Lavis it believes they are paid too much and plans to impose a wage freeze on them for the foreseeable future.  Just like it plans to cut the salaries of thousands of nurses, cleaners, teachers and police officers with its Responsible Spending Bill it tabled at Parliament recently.  COSATU will be reminding workers of this.

Not content with this naked proposal to pickpocket millions of already poorly paid workers, the DA is promising to cancel all other important labour rights that generations of workers struggled to achieve from the dark days of apartheid, when the DA’s predecessors sat meekly in Parliament, to post-1994 when the DA has voted against every single law improving the working conditions and rights of workers.

If the DA had done even the most elementary of desk top research and not merely relied upon abstract theories, it would have stumbled across extensive research by some of the most preeminent economists at the Universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch and overseas showing that a minimum wage is one of the most important tools to reducing poverty and inequality and stimulating the economy by increasing workers’ disposable income.  They would have come across ample evidence, not just the right-wing slogans that may tickle the fancy of inexperienced Members of Parliament desperate for a quick soundbite, that would have confirmed that the introduction of the National Minimum Wage in South Africa has not resulted in job losses just like it has not done in the United States, Brazil and Europe.

One could perhaps dismiss this as an act of naivety and the absence of any persons in the DA’s parliamentary caucus familiar with the struggles of working class communities, yet the very same DA caucus was vociferous in its defence of the rights of the captains of industry to earn obscene salaries ranging from R100 000 a day for the big five banks to the CEO of Lonmin making R300 million in a single year.  When the African National Congress led government tabled the Companies Amendment Bill merely asking for these pampered CEOs disclose to their shareholders in their company annual reports the gaps between the pittance they pay their cleaners and cashiers to the fat packages they pay themselves, the DA balked and said no, that would be unfair!  The same DA MPs have quietly cheered on the increases for MPs, MPLs and Councillors.

The callousness of the DA’s economic illiteracy which pedals the myth that paying workers peanuts and denying them an increase to keep pace with inflation is a recipe for galloping economic growth rates and jobs galore is exposed by anyone who experienced the slave wages of the apartheid era.  Workers were paid so little they could not afford a bus to get to work, nor food to keep their children healthy, or a home to keep their family warm.  There was no full employment under Verwoed’s economic experimentation. 

The crises of unemployment were inherited from an economy that sought fit to enrich a few and impoverish many.  The solution is to ensure reliable and affordable electricity, to modernise our railways and ports to unlock export industries, to fix our roads and infrastructure, to tackle crime and crime and corruption, to overhaul our skills regime to ensure workers meet the needs of the jobs of today and tomorrow, and to pay workers a living wage so they can buy the goods our companies produce.  This is not rocket science.  It’s a pity that the DA still doesn’t get it.  This is precisely why workers will never trust it with their lives.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator 
Cell: 082 785 0687