Commission to wrap up minimum wage talks next week

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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THE National Minimum Wage Advisory Commission (NMWAC) is to wrap up consultations on increased minimum pay for workers, when it meets at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Kingston next Wednesday at 10:00 am.

The consultations, which began on September 12 in Montego Bay, St James, and have since been held in Port Antonio, Portland; Mandeville, Manchester; and St Ann's Bay, St Ann, will address hourly rates for minimum wage earners and security guards.

Speculation is that the adjustments could reflect the possibility of local government elections, which are expected next year. However, there have been grouses about the failure of minimum wage earners and/or their representatives to make contributions to the current consultations, while employers have been eagerly making their presence felt.

The commission, which comprises new chairman Dr Ronald Robinson, trade unionist St Patrice Ennis, and Jamaica Employers Federation head Dr David Wan, is expected to wind up their activities and make a report to Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson by year end, in order to facilitate an announcement early next year.

After receiving the report from the commission, the minister will then make a recommendation to Cabinet which will, eventually, go to Parliament for final approval, possibly in January.

The national minimum wage was last adjusted in June 2018 when the minister announced a 12.9 per cent increase from $6,200 to $7,000 per 40-hour work week. Additionally, security guards received $9,700, up from $8,854 per 40-hour work week, reflecting a 9.6 per cent increase. Those rates took effect on August 1.

Planning Institute of Jamaica's (PIOJ) proposals, which are normally informed by the current low-inflation rate, normally influence the final outcome. But, last year, despite a proposed seven per cent increase from the PIOJ, the Government eventually came up with a 12.9 per cent increase for minimum wage earners and a 9.6 per cent increase for private security guards, which became effective on Emancipation Day, August 1, 2018.

Minister Robinson told Parliament last year that several factors were taken into consideration in arriving at the revised rates. These included the current state of the Jamaican economy, the ability of the employers to absorb an increase, the increased cost of utilities and transportation, the 2016 and 2017 inflation rates, the Government's economic recovery programme, and the International Monetary Fund Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement.

Minister Robinson noted that the Minimum Wage Act is one of Jamaica's most important pieces of labour legislations, adding that safeguarding the country's workers is critical to the society's advancement.

“It is the duty of any Government to ensure that our workers are not placed in a position where their earning is below a certain level,” she said.

The National Minimum Wage Act, among other things, provides for the fixing of a minimum wage, establishment of a Minimum Wage Advisory Commission and appointment of officers to inspect records to ensure compliance with the provisions of the legislation.


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