Many workers are still toiling for slave wages

The One Wage Campaign was launched this year to raise awareness of the plight of workers who were left out of the R20 an hour threshold.


A mother of two from Zimbabwe, Nobesuthu Nyathi, has never earned more than R2,400 a month in her years as a domestic worker. Currently working for a Yeoville family of five with as many bedrooms and three bathrooms, Nyathi works nine hours a day. Her day begins and ends in the dark as she takes a 6am taxi to work only to arrive home late that evening. Half of her money goes to transport and most of the rest is sent home to her children in Harare. In Ekurhuleni, 29-year-old aspiring firefighter Siyabonga Mtshali supports six people, including his two…

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A mother of two from Zimbabwe, Nobesuthu Nyathi, has never earned more than R2,400 a month in her years as a domestic worker.

Currently working for a Yeoville family of five with as many bedrooms and three bathrooms, Nyathi works nine hours a day. Her day begins and ends in the dark as she takes a 6am taxi to work only to arrive home late that evening.

Half of her money goes to transport and most of the rest is sent home to her children in Harare.

In Ekurhuleni, 29-year-old aspiring firefighter Siyabonga Mtshali supports six people, including his two children in KwaZulu-Natal, on just R3,025 a month, sometimes less if he doesn’t work overtime.

“I get my salary on the 25th of the month and by the 27th I am already at the mashonisa’s (loan shark) door,” says Mtshali.

He is one of 480 workers employed in the Ekurhuleni municipality under the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) aimed at creating jobs. They all earn less than the national minimum wage of R20 an hour.

Mtshali earns R11 an hour while Nyathi earns less than the R11 an hour required by law under the national minimum wage act.

Both workers were in support of the One Wage Campaign which was launched this year in order to raise awareness of the plight of workers who were left out of the R20 an hour threshold, including domestic workers, farm workers and EPWP workers.

“We are all breadwinners,” said Mtshali. “We are supporting families and children. We pay for transport and do everything else for just R11 an hour and that is not a living wage. I feel as though I am excluded by the same government I voted for.”

The One Wage Campaign is a coalition of workers rights organisations, unions and civil society members who made submissions to parliament against the “exclusion” of certain sectors of the working community from the national minimum wage.

Under the National Minimum Wage Act, farm workers earn R18 per hour while EPWP workers earn just R11.

The campaign submitted that not only was R20 an hour not a living wage, but the plight of those who earned even less than this under the Act were subjected to breaches of their rights to equality, suggesting the wages were unconstitutional.

“Many workers struggle on the full minimum wage of R20 per hour, which amounts to about R3 500 a month for a 40-hour week. What about those workers who are earning even less?” asked Thandiwe McCloy, the campaign’s spokesperson.

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