New wage for forestry workers

South Africa’s commercial forestry sector has been advised to implement its new minimum wages from 1 March instead of the government-stipulated 1 April date.

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This would help in averting any potentially unnecessary labour disputes resulting from the implementation of new minimum wages in the country’s agriculture sector.

Forestry SA (FSA) revealed that new minimum wages for the commercial forestry sector would now be the same as those for the agriculture sector. Last year the forestry sector’s minimum wages were 98% of agriculture’s minimum wage.

From 1 April 2014 until 31 March 2015 both sectors’ minimum wages will be R2 420,41/month, a R191,09 increase on the previous year’s R2 229,32 minimum monthly wage for the forestry sector. This equated to an 8,6% increase.

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The new weekly wage will be R558,60, a R44,10 increase. The new daily minimum wage of R111,72 for a nine-hour day will be R8,82 higher. The new hourly rate of R12,41 will be 98c higher than the previous year’s figure.

FSA’s operations director, Roger Godsmark, said that in the forestry industry all corporate timber companies already pay way over the minimum wage and a sizeable number of private growers do likewise.

“An 8,6% increase in wages this year is not expected to have any serious impacts on business viability. The commercial forestry sector employs 66 000 people and the new minimum wage is not expected to lead to any further job losses.”

FSA reminded its members that, if necessary, they can apply to the department of labour for a temporary exemption from having to pay the new minimum wages. However, applicants will have to prove to the department’s satisfaction that they cannot afford to pay the new minimum wages for a certain period.