25Jun, 2019

National Minimum Wage Act threatens NPO care workers’ jobs

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | June 25th, 2019

Tafta social worker Robyn Coetzee (left) is pictured with Wentworth resident, Mrs Kebble and her carer, Bridgette who, before the Minimum Wage Act was legislated, received a stipend for her work.

Following the signing of the National Minimum Wage Bill into effect earlier this year, Tafta – together with the Global Ageing Network – has called on the South African elder care sector to join a virtual roundtable discussion on the impact of the Bill on the sector.

Tafta CEO, Femada Shamam, said they were partnering with the Global Ageing Network to draw on the network’s expertise in creating a platform for policymakers, researchers, business and ageing services providers to collectively share their knowledge and concerns around the wage issue.

Programme Manager for The Global Ageing Network, Shannon Davis, explained that their organisation has hosted similar discussions in the United States, Europe and Australia. “We are excited to host one with Tafta and interested participants on Wednesday, 26 June. We have found that the virtual roundtables are a good way to create the kind of dialogue and connections that are at the heart of the Global Ageing Network. We aim to keep them on the smaller side so that everyone has an opportunity to participate and discuss the topic. The virtual roundtable will focus on workforce issues, specifically addressing the impact of wage pressures on quality, recruitment, and retention. We hope to continue this discussion in a larger forum at the 2019 Global Ageing Network Workforce Summit in Toronto, Canada.”

Shamam stressed that the organisation finds merit in the decision to support South Africa’s worst paid workers through the promulgation of the National Minimum Wage bill. “But as an organisation belonging to the care work sector, there are serious concerns over the bill’s possible impact on care workers and other NPO staff,” she said.

“Owing to limited resources and inadequate funding from the Department of Social Development (DSD), most NPOs already struggle to cover operational expenses. With the implementation of the bill, these NPOs will not be in a position to pay their care workers the minimum wage and many will have to close their doors if they cannot pay staff,” explained Shamam, who said the bill could present an impending crisis for the non-profit sector.

Tafta is affiliated to the Care Work Project, a body which represents over 2 000 NPOs advocating for the rights of those who care for people, including children, the elderly and people with disabilities. Care work activities include bathing, dressing, feeding, providing medication, companionship, counselling and teaching. The project’s objectives are to promote a standardised subsidy for NPO workers nationally and highlight the need for equitable NPO subsidies and salaries by increasing budgets for social development.

Shamam explained that NPO services were funded through a system of subsidisation, or, partial payments from DSD, and organisations are thus expected to raise the balance of funds through fundraising activities from donor organisations, trusts and foundations, corporates and other means.

“With the economy already in a state of flux, funds obtained through these activities are becoming harder to secure and NPOs are under pressure to operate on the waning DSD subsidy, placing severe pressure on our resources to meet ever growing needs in the elder care sector,” Shamam said.

Through the roundtable discussion, and other care work platforms, the project aims to assist NPOs to comply with the minimum wage bill by actively campaigning with government to secure DSD subsidies that are not less than the minimum wage. In the interim, they aim to assist NPOs applying for exemption from the bill and encourage them to query non standardised subsidy amounts paid for care workers in the non-profit sector.

Tafta’s Home Based Care programme, which has been in operation for over 20 years, could be affected by the Bill. In Wentworth, 12 marginalised women have been trained to provide home based care for elderly members of the community. The 12 carers serve between 80-86 vulnerable elderly monthly on a stipend of R16 per day.

“Whilst we realise their daily stipend is insufficient, it is an opportunity for these women to earn some semblance of an income and is based on what we can afford over and above the DSD subsidy,” said Shamam. “If we are forced to close this programme, the community suffers growing unemployment and a lack of elder care. It has been my dream to see the programme grow, but instead it faces potential closure.”