The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), welcomes the promulgated earnings threshold by the Ministry of Employment and Labour. The earnings threshold was last adjusted in 2014. In February 2021, a gazette was published increasing the amount from of R205 433.30 to R211 596.60 per annum. This adjustment will come into effect on 01 of March 2021.
The Minister of Employment and Labour on the advice of the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC) is empowered to publish a determination that excludes employees earning above the resolved threshold. These employees are excluded from sections 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17(2), 18 (3) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). SATAWU agrees in principle that workers, in general, must be covered in all areas of the BCEA. With this said, we equally acknowledge the internal contradictions which not only confront but shape and distinguish the working-class. By viewing the working-class as a homogenous stratum, we run the risk of overlooking variables such as social and occupational stratification, race and gender inequalities from the broader analysis of the earnings threshold.
The legacy of colonialism and evolution of the capitalist mode of production created conditions that structurally disadvantaged a majority of workers which are blacks in general and African in particular. Security Officers, Contract Cleaners and Farm Workers amongst others, have experienced an acute deterioration of occupational, social and economic conditions. The material reality faced by the aforementioned workers reveals that South Africa’s political economy thrives on the creation, maintenance and reproduction of poverty, unemployment and inequalities. Likewise, the discourse on the earnings threshold demands that we locate it within a broader social and economic context that has shaped South Africa’s uneven labour market.
The earnings threshold provides vulnerable workers with a degree of protection from existing forms of exploitation. The prescripts of the Act reveals that the capitalist mode of production to some extent has afforded workers earning above the threshold a relatively comfortable existence. It is from this perspective that SATAWU welcomes the adjusted earnings threshold. This means that a certain percentage of workers will be eligible to receive provisions initially excluded from.
The expansion of coverage should not be viewed as a major victory for the working-class. Material reality demonstrates that a majority of African workers earn far less than the accumulative figure of R211 596.39 per annum. A real victory will come at a stage in development where the earnings threshold is converted to a living wage so desperately needed by the working poor. The combination of a living wage and inclusive social protection/welfare programmes are necessary for the reconstruction and development of society.
Employees earning above the threshold are permitted to negotiate sections that the Act has excluded them from. The Labour Relations Act (LRA) addresses this question by allowing for the establishment of Bargaining Councils. Bargaining Councils are crucial for regulating industry standards and conditions of employment. SATAWU has continuously negotiated at various bargaining councils coverage for its members excluded in the above-highlighted sections of the Act.
Finally, addressing salary and occupational imbalances suggests that we work indefatigably to establish bargaining councils in sectors where they do not exist. Trade unions and employer organisations have a responsibility to maintain and improve the standards of service in sectors where bargaining councils exist. Notwithstanding that the theoretical underpinning of trade unions demands that we work towards eradicating all distinctions affecting the revolutionary progress of the working-class. This is with an understanding that quantitative measures alone cannot resolve South Africa’s deep-rooted racial, gender and structural inequalities. It is for this reason that discussions around the earnings threshold should focus more on achieving a quantitative and qualitative balance aimed at radically transforming the working conditions and living standards of the working-class.
Issued by: South African Transport & Allied Workers Union
For more information, contact
SATAWU General Secretary: Jack Mazibuko: 082 660 4793
SATAWU Deputy General Secretary: Anele Kiet: 071 021 1903