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S.African parliament passes national minimum wage bill

South Africa’s parliament on Tuesday passed a national minimum wage bill in a landmark step aimed at bridging one of the world’s highest income inequality gaps.

The bill attempts to ensure that the lowest paid workers receive a minimum of 20 rand ($1.60) per hour.

Although President Cyril Ramaphosa still has to sign the bill into law, the unprecedented piece of legislation is expected to improve the wages and livelihoods of an estimated six million South Africans earning less.

“The adoption of this historic National Minimum Wage bill goes a long way in protecting millions of vulnerable workers,” the ruling African National Congress said in a statement.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant hailed the move saying although small, it was crucial.

“Every journey starts often with a small step. The journey to address the plight of the lowest paid workers reached a milestone,” she said.

The bill establishes exemption provisions for employers who cannot afford the rate.

However, it was not passed without pushback from various labour unions and opposition political parties.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the main opposition party in the country, voted against the bill saying it had “not been subjected to proper public consultation and will push hundreds of thousands of people into unemployment”.

The leftist Economic Freedom Fighters, led by the firebrand Julius Malema also rejected the bill which will see workers earn a minimum 3,500 rand ($277) per month.

The second largest labour federation the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has labelled it a “slave wage”, demanding instead a monthly minimum wage of 12,500 rand ($988,50).