Domestic workers fight for national minimum wage

“We buy in the same shops, we pay the same for transport so we must be treated like all workers and get the same minimum wage,” says domestic worker Pinky Mashilane, founder of United Domestic Workers of South Africa.

Pinky Mashilane, domestic worker and founder of United Domestic Workers of SA, is fighting for domestic workers to be paid the national minimum wage.
Image: Zoë Postman

Mashilane has worked as a domestic worker for more than 30 years. She is currently involved in the One Wage Campaign, a coalition of unions and civil society organisations fighting for all workers to receive an equal minimum wage.

The campaign was launched in August 2019, eight months after the National Minimum Wage Act was implemented. The act has been criticised by the One Wage Campaign for setting the minimum wage lower than R20 an hour for some workers.

Domestic workers are entitled to R15 an hour while farm workers are entitled to R18 an hour and Expanded Public Works Programme workers are entitled to only R11 an hour.

Mashilane says the domestic worker wage is “not a living wage”, and some domestic workers earn even less than that.

“And now they want to exclude us from the minimum wage.

“In Benoni, domestic workers in those big houses are getting R1,400 a month and they are working from Monday to Sunday. They are hopeless and helpless. How much is it to get home, to buy groceries for their children, school uniforms, toiletries? What do they do? That is not a life.”

Mashilane started working as a domestic worker in Mpumalanga in 1989. She was in grade 10 at the time.

“I grew up very poor so I was sent out to find a job to help out at home because they could no longer afford to keep me in school. I didn’t have any skills other than to clean a house so I got a job as a domestic worker,” she says.

Her mother and all her aunts were also domestic workers.

In 1994, she moved to Pretoria and continued to work as a domestic worker. She would take the train from Soshanguve to Pretoria central station with her two-year-old daughter every morning.


Source: TMG Digital

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