SA wage demands are justified

General wage demands by workers were justified given South Africa's current production levels, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said yesterday.

General wage demands by workers were justified given South Africa's current production levels, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said yesterday.

"The general wage levels demanded by trade unions are on par with general production levels," Mdladlana said in a written reply to a question in Parliament.

The minister is attending an International Labour Organisation summit.

Mdladlana said it was important to look at the trend over the past 13 years.

"There is no doubt that the transition from the apartheid system has paved the way to unprecedented economic growth," he said.

South Africa's GDP was almost as big as the rest of sub-Saharan Africa combined, and had swelled steadily since 1994.

"The economy was growing at almost 5percent last year, investment looking up, while trade had been liberalised and public debt cut by half since 1999."

Mdladlana said it looked as if the economic growth rate was also well on course to reach government's 6percent target.

"Indeed, everyone in the country, including workers, would like to have a fair share of the cake.

"Since business owners operate to maximise their profits, it would seem acceptable that they would be willing to pay workers a wage equal to the contribution the workers can make to the firm's profitability," Mdladlana said.

He said statistics on real wage trends in South Africa indicated that formal employees' average real monthly earnings had increased between 1995 and 2005, although the increase was smaller for Africans than for coloureds, Indians and whites.

Mdladlana said this research showed that the real wage received by workers made an important contribution to the economy through consumption.

While the pay of some low income workers had risen, a "high number" were believed to still be earning relatively low wages, and these had not always kept pace with inflation. - Sapa

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