BUSINESS owners will be able to set the wages they pay their unskilled workers themselves when the Department of Labour cancels a number of wage determinations from June this year.

The Minister of Labour Membathisi Mdladlana has scrapped 12 sectoral determinations and their amendments with effect from 1 June this year.

Wage or sectoral determinations set minimum wages for industry sectors that don’t fall under bargaining councils. The canceling of wage determination 467, pertaining to unskilled labour, will have the most significant impact for employers.

Don Moody, a labour consultant for Cofesa, an employers’ association, says the scrapping of the wage determination on unskilled labour will enable business owners to grow their business and to hire more employees.

Moody says the old wage determination applies to 39 different sectors, including unskilled labour for gardening services, cleaning buildings, carpet cleaning and horse racing.

Unskilled labour, defined under the wage determination, does not include artisans or labourers who use powertools.

Some wage determinations are being scrapped because bargaining councils now cover the sectors the determinations once covered, he explains. An example is wage determination 471 which use to cover the clothing and knitting industry.

The spokesperson for the Department of Labour Zolisa Sigabi says no minimum wages will apply in the sectors where wage determinations have been scrapped.

This means employers will be dictated by market forces on what they pay employees. These sectors will fall under the Basic Condition of Employment Act (BCEA) which does not prescribe minimum wages.

Sigabi says they did not receive comment from any party when the notice was published in the government gazette in February 2006.

She says the department still intends to do a full investigation into the unskilled labour sector after the wage determinations are scrapped in June.

Godfrey Masegela, who runs Amaloba Horticulture Services, says he is undecided about the scrapping of the wage determination pertaining to unskilled labour.

He says he will consider dropping wages for new employees because the margins are very low in his sector. But he is concerned about not paying his employees enough, as he once was a labourer himself.

Brenda du Plessis, who runs Welkom-based Karpah Construction, says she won’t jump to bring down the wages she pays to the over 80 unskilled labourers she takes on for building contracts.

“The going rate is not that high at the moment, so I can’t really bring them down any more,” says Du Plessis.