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mildredoliphantThe Star reports that Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has issued regulations exempting employers who are unable to pay the national minimum wage that was passed by the National Assembly last year.

The regulations, which came into effect on January 1, are contained in a notice published in a government gazette in line with the new legislation.

In the notice, Oliphant said an employer may apply to a delegated authority who is a director-general for exemption from paying the minimum wage.

“An exemption may be granted if the delegated authority is satisfied that the employer cannot pay the minimum wage and if every employee representative trade union representing one or more of the affected workers has been consulted or, if there is no such trade union, the affected workers have been meaningfully consulted” Oliphant said.

She said the director-general may grant exemptions only from the date of application and specifying the period for which it was granted, which may not exceed 12 months. The employer would be required to pay no less than 90% of the national minimum wage.

Oliphant also said the exemption may be considered if the employer complied with statutory payments, which may not be limited to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, Compensation Fund and any applicable bargaining council agreement.

However, she said the director-general may withdraw the exemption if satisfied that the employer provided false or incorrect information when applying for the exemption, or if the employer’s financial position improved.

“Any affected person may apply to the delegated authority for the withdrawal of the exemption notice by lodging an application on the national minimum wage exemption system in the required form.”

The regulations state that such an online database should be established.

The director-general is expected to publish an annual report detailing the number of applications made, granted and refused; the number of employers and workers subject to the exemption; the withdrawal of exemptions and sectors affected.

Meanwhile, Oliphant has also issued guidelines on balloting for strikes in line with the recent amendment to the Labour Relations Act.

The guidelines say a member of a union organisation may not be disciplined or have their membership terminated for refusing to participate in strike action.

It also says there is no requirement for a union to obtain the consent of an employer to hold a ballot unless stipulated in a collective agreement.

“Reasonable notice must be given to members of the holding of a ballot.”

The guidelines also say there is no requirement for a union to permit employer observers at a ballot or employ independent scrutineers to conduct or observe the ballot.

The director-general is expected to issue a directive to those unions whose constitution does not provide for a secret ballot before embarking on strike action.

The original of this report by Mayibongwe Maqhina appeared on page 7 of The Star of 8 January 2019

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