Following the release of the report by the National Minimum Wage Advisory Panel, there has been much discussion about the level, and impact of the level, proposed by the panel. Surprisingly, there has been little, if any, debate on the panel’s proposal that the national minimum wage be based on an hourly, rather than a monthly, wage.

Labour unions have played an integral role as a voice for social transformation in South Africa. During apartheid, their objectives were distinctly political. Their formal influence grew with the deregulation of black trade unions in the early 1980s.

But how have they fared in the democratic period? In particular, to what extent have unions used labour-friendly laws to negotiate better conditions for their members? The answers to these two questions suggest two things: that trade unions remain a force to be reckoned with in South Africa; and that they deliver benefits to their members, particularly those who work in the public sector.

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