Land, wages and free education are at the centre of several key legislative processes expected to dominate parliament and government this year.
Not least of these is the implementation of the National Minimum Wage Act, which was signed into law last year.
Taking effect from last Tuesday, the Act requires all employers to adhere to the prescribed minimum wage of R20 per hour, with the exception of domestic workers and farm workers, who will have to be paid R15 and R18 an hour respectively.
According to trade union federation Cosatu’s parliamentary officer Matthew Parks, 6.4 million workers, many of whom constitute the most vulnerable and least-paid workers, are set to be affected in over 10 million work places.
“Employers are required to adhere to that or there will be fines. For that there are two components:
“The department of labour can take action against the employer and for that offence there will be a fine to the amount of 100% of the wage owed; for the second offence, the fine will be 200% plus interest and from there on it will escalate.”
The reason for this, said Parks, was to ensure companies and employers did not simply budget for the expected fines and would act as a strong deterrent against noncompliance.
The only concessions that will be made, according to the Act, were if the employer applied for an exemption, for which they would have to provide financial information proving that they qualified for this. The exemption would allow employers to only pay 10% less than the prescribed minimum wage.
“There are several avenues through which an employee can go through if their employer doesn’t pay minimum wage,” said Parks. “They can go to their union to lodge a complaint, they can go to the CCMA to lodge a grievance, or they can go to the department of labour, as well as the labour court.”
Parks said he was aware of the capacity concerns in the implementation and enforcement of his law.
He added that Cosatu was concerned that the labour department did not have enough labour inspectors in their employ in order to provide the necessary oversight for this process.
“We hope that the government will attend to this and that the capacity will be created because even in the labour court as it stands, it can take as much as two years to get a court date.”
Meanwhile, as the general election in May draws closer, land expropriation is expected to dominate political debate. This as the process of adopting an expropriation Act into law, which would include changing the constitution, moves along this year.
Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said while parliament would follow the consultation process within the next few months, there was no law requiring President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign the legislation into law with any expedience, meaning it was unclear whether one could expect the Act to become law by the end of this year.
Last year, National Assembly agreed to establish an ad hoc committee to initiate and introduce legislation, before the end of the fifth parliament, to amend section 25 of the constitution so that expropriation of land without compensation was made explicit, as a legitimate option for land reform.
The committee would comprise 11 voting members of the National Assembly and 14 non-voting members.