Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi has assured employers and employees that all key roleplayers were consulted when determining the National Minimum Wage (NMW), which will increase next month.

Last week Nxesi announced farmworkers will get R21.69 per hour and domestic workers R19.09 per hour. This means a daily rate for domestic workers will be R152.72 and a monthly rate for 20 working days totals R3,054.

On Monday, the minister said the increment has been met with objections from some industries, which have cited the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As we have pointed out before, the minimum wage is what it says it is. It is not based on thumb suck but a well thought out process that allows all the interested parties to have a voice.

“The NMW Act, however, accordingly permits employers who are genuinely unable to pay the proposed adjustment to utilise the exemptions procedures to be exempted from the NMW,” said Nxesi.

The minister said stakeholders were divided in the adjustments of the NMW. Some supported the changes and argued for an above-inflation increase and equalisation of the domestic and worker sectors.

However, commissioners argued that the NMW should increase to R21.96 per hour as of March. They said the agricultural sector was not severely affected by the pandemic as their services were considered essential.

Some agricultural organizations opposed the increases and said they threatened job security and may lead to food price increases.

Agbiz CEO Dr John Purchase said the bans on the sale and distribution of alcohol had a negative impact on the wine industry. He said the NMW amounted to a 16.1% increase in farmworkers’ wages in a single financial year.

“We fear the recent adjustment will add to already tough economic conditions.

“Even the subsectors that performed well in 2020 will be affected as no sector can be expected to absorb an increase of 16.1% in a single financial year,” he said.

TLU SA said it had asked the department in December not to impose the new NMW until the economy had improved.