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New minimum wage to be announced today

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

MINISTER of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson is expected to announce a new national minimum wage, as well as new minimum rates for private security guards, when she speaks at Gordon House today.

Robinson will be making her contribution to the sectoral debate when the House of Representatives convenes this afternoon at two o'clock.

Although the new rates are to be announced today, there is no indication as to when they will come into effect. The National Minimum Wage Advisory Commission (NMWAC) usually asks for a two-month grace period between announcement and implementation of the new rates to allow for a seamless imposition.

The NMWAC concluded its series of islandwide consultations on the national minimum wage in September last year. The Government had been expected to make the announcement before the March 31 end of the 2017/18 fiscal year. However, that timeline was missed.

The islandwide consultations included submissions from several institutions and individuals, including the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, the Sugar Producers Federation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Employers' Federation, the Household Workers Association, as well as governmental agencies such as the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), HEART Trust/NTA, and the Bureau of Women's Affairs.

Proposals for increases, ranging from six per cent to 30 per cent, as well as an endorsement for fixed periods of two to three years for the increases were proposed during the consultations.

Others contributors, including the Tambourine Army and We Change Jamaica, recommended new calculations, including a guaranteed minimum income as well as segregated national minimum wage increases for industrial and commercial workers, security guards and household workers

However, the Cabinet's decision, which is the final in the process, is likely to be guided mainly by the PIOJ's submission.

Last September, the PIOJ submitted a seven per cent increase, which would increase payment for a 40-hour workweek by approximately $434, to $6,634. But the Cabinet can add to that figure if it sees the need.

According to Steven Kerr, manager of the PIOJ's Human and Community Development Unit, who presented the institute's submission to the commission, this would meet the national minimum wage's target of “increasing the purchasing power of exceptionally low-income workers, allow for a reasonable degree of security, and enable him/her to live with some amount of dignity”.

The PIOJ's position was not far off from that of several other contributors to the consultations, who felt that employers of household workers, for example, should be protected from a much higher increase for their employees, considering that their salaries were subject to restraint, and suggested a new minimum wage of $7,500 per 40-hour week.

Members of the NMWAC are: Human Resource consultant Silvera Castro, chairman; human resource director Bernita Locke; and trade unionist St Patrice Ennis.