JIS News

Effective January 30, some 200,000 national minimum wage earners and industrial security guards are set to benefit from increases in their earnings. There will be a 16.66 per cent increase in the national minimum wage, moving from $2,400 to $2,800 per 40 hour work week and a 15 per cent increase in the minimum wage for industrial security guards, with the wage moving from $3,600 to $4,140 per 40 hour work week.
In addition, laundry allowance for the security guards will move from $18 to $20 per hour with an increase in the firearm allowance from $20 to $21 per hour. The dog handler’s allowance will move from $14 to $15 per hour, while the life insurance coverage will move from $1 million to $1.2 million with double indemnity.
Labour and Social Security Minister, Horace Dalley, who made the announcement in the House of Representatives yesterday (January 17), said the level of increase to the minimum wage was higher than the expected rate of inflation for the 2005 calendar year. He added that the increase, which had been approved by the Cabinet, would at a minimum, protect the purchasing power of minimum wage earners and ensure that the level of increases had no statistically significant impact on the employment rate.
The Minister however, urged employers who were currently paying above the minimum wage, to continue doing so and encouraged minimum wage earners to ensure that future increases were justified by their improved performance and productivity.
Mr. Dalley further informed that the decision had been taken to have annual reviews of the minimum wages, while noting that the attempts by Government over the last three years have been to develop a minimum wage system that established a minimum level of payment by law, which would protect vulnerable low wage earners, and provide a level of earning which would motivate workers.
The Minister further informed that an amendment would be taken to Parliament to increase the penalties under the Minimum Wage Act to ensure that employers who were in breach of the Act would feel the full brunt of the law.
Opposition Member of Parliament and Trade Unionist, Rudyard Spencer, in commenting on the increase, said the amount determined to be the minimum wage was disappointing and could not be seen as a realistic amount to allow persons to operate in the current economic climate. Mr. Spencer argued that even though more than 85 per cent of the individuals in the minimum wage category earned above the stipulated amount, there were still others who were paid at the minimum wage.
Mr. Spencer recommended that a meeting be held with stakeholders to examine what would be a “reasonable and livable wage”.
“I am recommending that this Government sit with the stakeholders.the Jamaica Employers Federation, the Confederation of Trade Unions and the Ministry of Labour to determine a reasonable livable wage,” he said.
In his reply, Mr. Dalley pointed out that the reference point for the minimum wage was the one provided for in the International Labour Organization’s convention on minimum wage fixing.
Persons to whom the minimum wage is applicable include, household helpers, persons involved in the catering and the laundry and dry cleaning trade, the printing trade, retail petrol trade and other distributive/retail operations, the bakery trade, the garment making trade, industrial security guards, public passenger transport and the hotel sub-sector.