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Gov't targets minimum wage increase before end of 2017/18

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

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The Government is expecting to implement a new national minimum wage and minimum rates for private security personnel before March 31, the end of the 2017/18 fiscal year.

The National Minimum Wage Advisory Commission had its first meeting for the year at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security a week ago to start the ball rolling.

However, Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson appears to have been cracking the whip, as she has been said to be “passionately” arguing for the commission to complete its work well within the current final quarter of 2017/18.

The commission is expected to meet again within a week and should complete its work by the end of January, after which the document expressing the commission's position on an increase will be sent to Robinson. The minister will submit it to the Cabinet for approval, and finally it will end up in Parliament for its approval.

However, it is understood that some commissioners believe that, in order for a seamless imposition of the new rates, employers should be given a two-month grace period for implementation.

It is not clear what position the ministry might take on that, but it is obvious that a two-month grace period would take the process over into fiscal year 2018/19.

The commission concluded its series of islandwide consultations on the national minimum wage in September last year.

The 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.

There were 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 increases.

However, the commission is likely to lean mostly on the PIOJ for guidance when it meets to discuss its position.

Last September, Steven Kerr, manager of the PIOJ's Human and Community Development Unit, proposed a seven per cent increase, which would move payment for a 40-hour work-week by approximately $434.

He said that 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.

Others, 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.

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

The minimum rates for workers were last increased on March 1, 2016. The national minimum wage rose from $5,600 to $6,200 per 40-hour work week. Arising from this, the new hourly rate went to $155 per hour; time and half rate moved to $232.50; and the double time rate to $310.

The minimum rates for industrial security guards was increased from $204.97 per hour for a 40-hour work week (single-time rate) or $8,198 weekly to $221.35 per hour for a 40-hour work week or $8,854 weekly.

For security guards, the time and a half rate will be increased to $332.03. while the double time rate moved to $442.70.


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