Montego Bay Residents Call for Minimum Wage Increase

Photo: JIS Photographer Chairman of the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission, Silvera Castro (centre), makes a point during the first national minimum wage consultation held on September 10, at the Montego Bay Civic Centre in St. James. He is flanked by members of the Commission, Danny Roberts and Bernita Locke.

Story Highlights

  • Residents of St. James and surrounding parishes are in support of an increase in the national minimum wage
  • Participants said an increase is needed in light of the challenging economic conditions
  • Those employers, who can afford to pay more should do so

Residents of St. James and surrounding parishes are in support of an increase in the national minimum wage of between 20 per cent and 25 per cent.

At the first in a series of national consultations on the national minimum wage, held on Tuesday, September 10, at the Montego Bay Civic Centre in Sam Sharpe Square, the participants were of the opinion that an increase is needed in light of the challenging economic conditions.

“The interesting point for me is that (during consultations) last year there was a general view that based on the state of the economy, a minimum wage increase ought not to be considered.  But this year, there is a very clear message that we can glean from the discussions that an increase in the minimum wage is absolutely necessary and the level of increases should range from 20 per cent to 25 per cent,” said Member of the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission, Danny Roberts.

He told JIS News that he was pleased with the turn-out at the Montego Bay consultation as well as the wide range of balanced contribution from the participants.

He indicated that the Commission will look closely at all the recommendations and suggestions from this and other consultations scheduled for other locations and “couch its recommendations to Government within the context of some very pertinent points raised by participants so far about productivity, improvements, efficiency and sustainability in the country’s economy”.

Chairman of the Commission, Silvera Castro, in his address to the participants, stressed that even though the Government sets a national minimum wage, those employers, who can afford to pay more should do so.

“The baseline is that we are encouraging persons, who can pay, to pay more.  The Minimum Wage Commission is saying that this is just a guideline and if you have the ability to pay, do so,” Mr. Castro told participants.

He also had strong words of encouragement for all citizens to pay their taxes, in order for the Government to be in a better position “to address the relevant suggestions and recommendations for viable increases in the minimum wage”.

“We at the Commission would like to say also to Government, you need to find the means and ways to collect all the uncollectable taxes out there, which account for millions of dollars which could, in the end, assist in the establishment of some social benefits for workers at the lower levels in society,” Mr. Castro stated.

The next session will be held in Mandeville, followed by Port Antonio, Ocho Rios and Kingston, to complete the series of five sessions.

Members of the public and interested organisations are invited to put forward comments, suggestions or proposals for consideration.

The Minimum Wage Advisory Commission comprises representatives of the government, trade unions and employers’ group and is mandated to review minimum wage rates annually.

The national minimum wage was last increased in September 2012, moving from $4,500 to $5,000 per 40-hour work week, and from $6,655 to $7,320.50 per 40-hour work week for security guards.

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