Thursday, March 9, 2017


Dear Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President of South Africa,

          Surely the most important thing we need to do in our country at the moment is to ensure that the millions without a job get work, any work at any rate.
          By forcing a minimum wage of R3 500 on all employers, all you are doing is looking after the people who are already in a job when our unemployment rate is sky high at 26% and rising.
          And it could even cause some workers to lose their jobs if their employers can’t afford the new rate. By far the worst aspect is that at the same time it will ensure that a lot of those without work will never, ever be able to get started.
Letter in The Times
          In its analysis of this plan the Institute for Race Relations also believes that it will “only further limit the access to the labour market” for the unemployed.
          Sir, which would your prefer to have; a regular job that pays say R2 000 or even less per month or no job at all. Imagine, if you can, that you also have a wife and two children to support and her job as a domestic came to an end because her employer could no longer afford to pay her the minimum wage stipulated for her category when that came into force a few years ago.
          How many domestic workers lost their permanent jobs and are now working on an hourly basis a few days a week because a minimum wage was decreed for them?         
          I almost missed out on a career in journalism because of the minimum wage for reporters that was in force in Britain when I started. Typically it was a union idea -the National Union of Journalists.
          I was 22 when I arrived there from South Africa determined to become a journalist. The only problem was that according to what the Union decreed an apprentice started at 17 so a 22 year old had to be paid the rate of somebody with five years experience.
          Hardly surprisingly I battled to find anybody to take me on, even though I was happy to work for just about nothing to get a foot in the door.
Letter in The Times
          Eventually I was accepted by one of the few papers in the country that didn’t recognise a union and nobody bothered about this because it was so small. That’s where I started on a pittance and I was actually married at the time.
          It was a real sweat shop that consisted of the editor, a sadistic news editor and three very green reporters – me, another guy and a girl who was in tears almost every day. The turnover of the staff was such that after eight months I was the most experience reporter.
          It was the fastest learning school I ever experienced. For instance on my first day in a little town I had only been in for a few days the news editor asked me to report on an accident. He gave me the address and when I naively asked where this was he flew into a rage and told me to damned well look it up on the map.
          You had to report just about everything that happened there to fill the paper and if the news editor heard you had passed the registry office without noticing the confetti in the street that showed a wedding had taken place there was hell to pay. You would then be grilled by him and the editor for an hour or more.
          The training I got there enabled me to write for just about all the major British newspapers as a freelance and become an investigative journalist on The Star and the Sunday Times in Johannesburg. All of this would not have been possible if that minimum wage had been rigidly enforced.

          Of course unions love minimum wage regulations because they do what they do best; they destroy enterprise and reduced everyone to the lowest common denominator. They also ensure that nobody works at a rate that will undercut their members.
          Pandering to them however does nothing to ensure that the majority have a job, any job as long as they can earn something.

          Fortunately like so many of our African National Congress master plans a minimum wage is unlikely to work because the policing will be so bad. We have lived in the same place for the last 10 years and nobody has ever come to us to ensure that we pay our maid the required minimum.
          Jon who believes that anything that stifles freedom of choice in the job market can only be bad, very bad.        


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