Deputy President Civil Ramaphosa confirmed that the agreement on minimum wage was signed on Tuesday, despite the confusion.
Confusion abound when the deal was signed emerged when Cosatu said that the signing-in ceremony – which was set to take place on Tuesday – would be postponed because they were unhappy with the deal. Ramaphosa went ahead and signed it on Tuesday anyway. He said that the new minimum wage "will significantly improve the lives of low-paid workers and address the challenge of wage inequality".
All unions besides Cosatu affiliates have signed the minimum wage agreement.
The minimum wage deal, finalised at R20 per hour, was announced this week and was thought to have closed the door on the issue after two years of negotiations between business, labour and government.
According to Business Day, Cosatu said on Tuesday that it needed to report back to its central executive committee meeting on February 27 before the deal could be signed. "... depriving Zuma of an opportunity to gloat at Thursday's State of the Nation Address," the paper noted.
And the presidency announced on the same day that it would postpone the signing due to Cosatu's request to delay the agreement.
According to the paper, there are still three issues Cosatu is not happy with: the issue of working hours, the annual increase in the minimum wage and medium-term targets.
Business Day said the R20-per-hour wage was not at issue for Cosatu, which said in November the initial proposal of R3,500 per month was a "significant starting point".
But the new agreement did not speak of annual increases for the minimum wage, and Cosatu reportedly wants clear timelines on this.
While Cosatu still has its reservations about these and other issues in the agreement, Business Day says there was "also an element of political manoeuvring" in its decision not to sign the agreement at the last minute.
The paper quoted "insiders" who said the process was rushed so that Zuma could make an announcement during the Sona address. Cosatu has backed deputy president Ramaphosa for ANC president.