DEBATE ON LIVING WAGE
Recently, SHAWN NTHAILE, Member of Parliament (MP) for Jwaneng-Mabule constituency tabled a motion in which he called on Parliament to request government to introduce living wage policy as opposed to minimum wage.
He said life’s demands have to be taken into consideration when working out the living wage. FRANCINAH BAAITSE MMANA captured the debate as other MPs responded to the motion.
DORCUS MAKGATO (SEFHARE-RAMOKGONAMI) :I need to understand whether you are saying you cannot determine a minimum wage given the current or prevailing economic circumstance to such an extent that the minimum wage that we have set is equivalent to a living wage?
NTHAILE: Minister, I believe that can happen, but what I am saying is the current minimum wage does not address the living standards of Batswana.
It does not address the cost of living and does not consider other life’s demands such as buying of food, utilities, accommodation, housing, health and education.
ERIC MOLALE (GOODHOPE-MABULE): The motion before us is understandable and the mover wanted to take us somewhere, but I have a problem which I want us to resolve so that by the time we finalise the debate, we would agree on certain important points.
I had thought that he would come up with figures and experts would be called to work out the sums. In other words, the motion is still empty.
DITHAPELO KEORAPETSE (SELIBI-PHIKWE WEST):Normally what The Living Wage Foundation in United Kingdom does is, when this living wage is calculated, they look at basic needs; you look at the cost of food, cost of housing, cost of utilities or other essential needs, then you just have a small margin of unforeseen contingency, that is the formula.
VINCENT SERETSE (MMOPANE-LENTSWELETAU):This figure, which is sometimes mentioned by opposition, that they will employ 100 000 and pay them a minimum of P3000, monthly each,isn’t the same figures they are thinking of introducing as a decent wage or is it?
MOLALE: No, the motion says, “Request Government to introduce…”, so, let’s not grill him much because he realizes he is not in government.
I want to correct him because he suggested that minimum wage has subjected people to poverty. Minimum wage is not poverty level wage..
Let’s take a balanced approach to this motion, and understand the dynamics inherent in the direction in which this motion, wants to take us to..
I am somehow unable to agree with the mover from the onset, because there are many gaps that needs to be filled for us to understand him.
MMOLOTSI : We all can see that government is struggling to free people from poverty and has failed in every way.
The major cause of poverty remains low wages, hence former workers are forced to depend on government for pensions.
The minimum wage as offered by the Government of Botswana and all other departments, is too low, whether domestic workers or shop assistants, salaries are low.
Ironically in other countries such as South Africa, employees for retail shops such as Spar, Choppies etc get two times as much as their counterparts in Botswana.
This is because their labour policy is more favourable and friendly to the workers than ours.
MOLALE: I am glad you raised those comparison points about Botswana and South Africa.
On the same token, are you aware that in South Africa they pay school fees, electricity and petrol prices are generally high with, taxes which are up to 40 per cent?
Don’t you think the balance of what I mentioned before has to be taken into consideration?
MMOLOTSI: Even if we were to look at those other factors that you have just talked about and make subtractions, what our workers are getting is still very low in comparison.
With these low salaries, Batswana still pay for subsidized services.
MOKGWEETSI MASISI (MOSHUPA-MANYANA): Why is it then that our poor are better off than their poor?
MMOLOTSI: I don’t believe our poor are better than their poor because I have poor people in my constituency, though I have seen the poorest of the poor when I visited Bagalatia’s constituency (OKAVANGO).
That is why I was not impressed with the recent speech that suggested that unemployment rate has gone down, yet on the ground the opposite is true.
Researchers have suggested that the decent living wage in Botswana has to be around P3000.
You may talk about subsidies Minister, but when you walk into a shop there are no reserved prices for the rich and poor, prices for goods are all the same.
From your time as Minister of Presidential Affairs you tried to fight poverty by introducing backyard gardens and others, but all in vain.
The best thing to do would be to pay our people well, that’s the advice I can give you as the incoming President.
MOKAILA: This is a sensitive motion with a potential to collapse our economy. I am worried because we are entering the silly season.
We are moving towards a period where we talk to please the listeners so that they think we are representing their interests.
Our responsibility as Parliament is to protect both our economy and our people.
SERETSE:Does it mean the said P3000.00 decent wage which you are suggesting would be the same standard for herdboys and house maids? Will it bind us all to do the same?
MOKAILA: Do you think these ones can afford to pay that much? These ones!(pointing at other MPs)
MMOLOTSI: Looking down upon honourables should not be tolerated in this house.
KOKORWE: Honourable Mokaila, I don’t like the way you talk to others.
MOKAILA: But can he afford to pay that much?
MAKGATO): I asked the mover of this motion if he understands the difference between the living wage and the minimum wage.
A minimum wage, if you take all things into account,can’t it be a living wage, but he deliberately became evasive in his response.
What I suspect is that this is an opportunistic motion, which because we are going to elections he wants voters to think that he was speaking for them to have their wages hiked. He knows it is impossible to do that, hence he is failing to come up with a suggested figure.
I suspect that this is just opportunistic, brought forth by someone driven by selfish interests.
MOKAILA: I said it earlier that we are entering the silly season.
SEDIRWA KGOROBA (MOGODITSHANE): Isn’t it better to close Parliament during this season because seemingly whatever we say will be misconstrued and associated with the season?
MOKAILA: If you want to go, you are free to do so. Trees are flowering.
MMOLOTSI: When you say trees are flowering, you mean MPs are running mad.
Madam Speaker you understand Setswana very well and you know that such a saying is rude.
KOKORWE: Yes, that saying means people are mad and it is not right to say that to honourable members.
MOKAILA: I disagree. After the rain, trees bloom and we enter a new season where they start to flower.