Activists call for better wages

Terry Bell addressed participants.

Former miners, residents and various community organisations are calling on government to rethink the R3 500 minimum wage and to implement new strategies to address the inequality in South Africa.

This emerged during a dialogue organised by Workers World Media (WWM) and held at Isivivana Centre, in Khayelitsha, on Thursday April 6.

Labour analyst Terry Bell was the main speaker. He shared ideas with various community stakeholders and members of the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM).

Among others, participants argued that the government needed to address some of the political problems facing the country, saying they hinder the provision of better services. They claimed that workers, particularly domestic workers and farmworkers were still subjected to many inhumane working conditions.

Mr Bell said people should be demanding a basic income of R5 000 a month, whether they worked or not. He added that only then should the government start talking about minimum wage.

Mr Bell said workers drove the economy and without them it would be doomed.

He said the government first announced this minimum wage four or five years ago but prices continue to go up.

He added that the proposal would only be implemented in two years time, meaning the wage would be worth even less.

He said some labour unions claimed to be championing for the rights of workers, yet they were weak and ineffective.

Mr Bell said the country’s economy was controlled by a few individuals and that needed to be changed.

However, he said in order to achieve that everyone needed to be united and work together despite their ideological and political differences.

“People need to be given back their land, but proper procedure needs to be followed.

“We need to host many of these seminars to sensitise people about their rights and how to exercise them,” he said.

Lunga Guza, labour advisor at WWM, said the aim was to urge workers to be activists for their rights and fight for them. He said part of their mission is to provide a platform for workers to voice their concerns and provide them with assistance.

He said it was sad and unfortunate that there was little or no coverage in the mainstream media of issues facing workers.

Mr Guza said it was essential that they unpack the minimum wage for the workers so that they understand what it means.

“This minimum wage simply means that a worker is paid R20 an hour and it is shocking that government endorses that,” he said.

PYM representative Mabhelandile Twani said young people needed to participate in such forums as they formed the majority of the country’s population.

He vowed to take the debate to his organisation to spread the word about problems facing workers. He said they should intensify the fight of getting the land back. He said South Africa has a lot of mineral resources, but only few benefited.