The one-year-old South African Trade Union Federations (Saftu) staged a nationwide strike on Wednesday in protest against legislation to implement the minimum wage.
Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said that by passing legislation setting the minimum wage at such a low level‚ government was entrenching poverty.
Addressing the Freedom Day celebrations in Bloemfontein on Friday‚ Ramaphosa said: “Some people have argued that the starting minimum wage of R20 an hour is not a living wage. They are correct.”
Some argued that the national minimum wage would not end income inequality. He said those people were also correct.
“But what the national minimum wage does provide is a firm and unassailable foundation – which is agreed to by all social partners – from which to advance the struggle for a living wage.”
Ramaphosa said the introduction of the national minimum wage will increase the income of more than six million working South Africans.
“A wage increase of that size and that extent is unprecedented in our history‚ and we must celebrate it.
“The national minimum wage is like a great hill that we have climbed‚ but we dare not linger‚ because there are still many more hills to climb‚” Ramaphosa said.