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January 9, 2019

New South Africa national minimum wage now in force

By Leonie Barrie

Clothing, textile, footwear and leather workers in South Africa are among the millions of beneficiaries of a new National Minimum Wage that came into force at the beginning of January.

The new minimum wage of ZAR20 (US$1.43) per hour – ZAR3,500 (US$250.5) a month – applies across all sectors, including farm, domestic, retail, restaurant, hairdressing, forestry, furniture and cleaning.

But it will also benefit workers in the clothing, textile, footwear and leather (CTFL) industry, “particularly some clothing workers in peri-urban areas and home-textiles workers who earn less than ZAR20 per hour,” according to Andre Kriel, general secretary at the Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU).

“Although this wage is not yet a living wage, its positive impact will still help many millions of workers to better look after their families,” he adds. “By increasing their buying power, the NMW will also drive demand and stimulate the economy.”

Kriel also believes “an important next step for government, business and labour should be to focus on an increase in the National Minimum Wage as this ZAR20 per hour level was agreed two years ago.”

The South African Federation of Trade Unions last year said the minimum wage level of ZAR20 an hour “condemns millions of workers and their families to government-sanctioned poverty,” adding that research had calculated workers would need ZAR5000 a month – “ZAR1500 more than anyone working for a full month on the ZAR20 an hour NMW” – to stay above the poverty line.

A separate two-year settlement on wages for over 60,000 South African clothing workers employed in 745 factories nationwide was agreed last August, with workers in metro areas receiving a 7.5% increase and workers in non-metro areas a rise of 8%. The increases apply from the beginning of September 2018, and 2019.

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