Labour Minister introduces tripartite Board


Government has taken steps to establish a tripartite entity to address the issue of minimum wage in this country.
According to Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo, the Minimum Wage Board, to comprise representatives of Government, Labour and the Private Sector, will be authorised to advise the Minister of what a minimum wage should be. She made the point as she explained that the Bill, once passed, will repeal the Wages Council Act of 1955 and is intended to address the deficit in respect of much-needed minimum wages across various sectors.
She made the comments while leading off the debate on the Minimum Wage Bill in the Upper House, as she explained that the Board will take into consideration several social and economic factors in order to make recommendations to the Minister of a minimum wage. She said options are either for a national minimum wage for all workers or minimum wage by sector. In either case, she said, the Board would establish a floor, but the “sky is the limit” for employers in respect of what they pay their workers.
“What they would do is signal to the Minister, ‘this is our recommendation’ and then the Minister would make the order,” she said.
Putting this Board in place, she said, will ensure that there is proper machinery in place to regulate the wages of workers in this country. She made the point while noting that existing legislation that speaks to the minimum wage for certain sectors, such as domestic workers, is out of date. That 1982 Order, she said, prescribes $1.50 per hour for minimum wages.
“The only ones that are there now are the shop assistants at $6.50 an hour, and the domestic employees. Some people have used the shop assistants as for them a guideline as to what they would use as a minimum. But the truth is, there are many that would recognise that unless they have a shop and they are dealing with shop assistants, that figure does not apply to them; and so they have no minimum that is prescribed and they can do whatever they want. And so we are concerned, especially in certain sectors, that there needs to be a set minimum wage for workers,” the Labour Minister said.
Minister Byer-Suckoo said that in addition to the domestic workers, the Labour Department has been made aware of concerns regarding the wages for persons working in small laundries, small bakeries, janitorial services firms and as security guards, which they argue is below what they think is acceptable.
“I anticipate that once we’ve done this and there is noise abroad that there is this mechanism now established, we will probably be getting some requests from other sectors to have their legislations looked at as well,” she added.
She further added that where the Board believes that the Minister should fix a minimum wage, before making that recommendation, it will take a number of factors into consideration including the rate of inflation, cost of living and general level of wages in the country. Additionally, they will examine the contributions payable and benefits provided under the National Insurance Act, and the taxes to be deducted in accordance with the Income Tax Act.
“And also economic factors including the requirements for economic development; the level of productivity and the desirability of attaining and maintaining high levels of employment; payment for similar jobs or tasks in other countries in CARICOM, the Commonwealth or similar jurisdictions; and any other relevant or related factors,” the minister said.
She made the point while contending the decisions will not be arbitrary and those appointed to the Board will have knowledge and experience on such matters. (JRT)

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