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JIS News

The Minimum Wage Advisory Commission says it will ask Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, to provide a consultant to assist the Commission in determining when and how minimum wages should be adjusted.
The suggestion has received broad support from workers’ organisations and employers, who believe that a systematic study would form a more concrete basis on which to hold consultations for future increases in the minimum wage.
Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Silvera Castro, told JIS News that this has become necessary in light of the number of submissions being made to the Commission, the various interests served by these submissions and their implication for the economy in the current circumstances.
“We want to look at the issue as objectively as possible and we believe that, in order to do so, we would need the services of a consultant who will be able to research and advise us on critical points,” he said.
Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions’ (JCTU) Vice-President, Mr. Danny Roberts, who is the workers’ representative of the Commission, said that the inclusion of a consultant would remove the need for an annual review and allow for periodic adjustments, based upon considerations like inflation.
The issue came to the fore, as the Commission carried out public consultations at the Ministry of Labour in Kingston on Wednesday (March 17).
Representatives of workers, including private security guards, and employers from a wide cross-section of sectors attended the meeting.
The Commission is considering whether there should be an increase in the National Minimum Wage, as well as the minimum wage for security guards, this year and, if so, what that increase should be. They are also considering the impact any increase would have on the economy, and whether there should be a raise in light of frozen wages in the public sector.
There were suggestions for increases ranging from 12.3 per cent to 50 per cent. However, there was strong opposition to an increase from employers in the sugar and private security sectors, who felt an increase was “not logical”.
They suggested that, in the current economic climate, an increase would not be in the best interest of low-income earners as it could result in job losses for workers such as security guards and household helpers.
“Clients find themselves not able to pay the new rates that are proposed and their reaction is either to have a reduction in service, which means a cut back in manpower, or they decide that they will do without security altogether,” stated Mr. Michael Kennedy of Taskforce Security Company.
The employers also pointed out that most persons, who hire household helpers were public sector workers, whose wages are currently frozen.
However, Mr. Roberts disagreed with that position, saying it was “whimsical” to suggest that an increase in the minimum wage would result in increased unemployment.
The employers are represented on the Commission by Mrs. Bernita Locke, First Vice President, Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF).
Labour Market Analyst at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Mr. Maurice Harris, presented figures showing that while the current minimum wage could sustain one person, a low-income household with five family members would not be able to survive on the current rate.
Based on the Institute’s figures, Mr. Harris said the PIOJ was suggesting a 12.3 per cent increase in the minimum wage, so that low-income families could continue to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
Wednesday’s meeting was one in a series of consultations conducted by the Commission to inform its decision. Last year the national minimum wage was increased by 10 per cent, moving from $3,700 to $4,070 for a 40-hour work week.