House to debate minimum wage next Tuesday

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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The House of Representatives will meet next Tuesday at Gordon House to debate the new national minimum wage (NMW) announced by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Shahine Robinson, in late June.

Robinson announced a 12.9 per cent increase in the minimum wage, from $6,200 to $7,000 per 40-hour work week.

In addition, she said security guards would receive $9,700 per week, up from $8,854 per week, reflecting a 9.6 per cent increase. The new rates will take effect August 1.

The process of setting the minimum rates starts with the National Minimum Wage Advisory Commission (NMWAC), which is comprised of chairman Silvera Castro, and Bernita Locke and St Patrice Ennis representing the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF) and the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), respectively.

The commission, after consultations across the island, makes a recommendation to the minister, which has to be approved, eventually, by Parliament.

This year's approximately 13 per cent increase in the NMW came as a surprise to both the unions and the employers, as it was generally felt that the increase would be about seven per cent, based on calculations done by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), as well as the effect the 16 per cent increase over four years (2017/2021) in public sector salaries.

Successive governments have warned of the need to not only consider a “liveable” wage for the minimum paid workers, but also the ability of workers, like public sector employees, to pay increased wages to their household help.

However, the Cabinet has the right to top up any amount proposed by the commissioners, before taking the matter to Parliament.

In making the announcement, Robinson told the House that, in fiscal 2018/19, her ministry will be working to complete amendments to the National Minimum Wage Act, National Minimum Wage Order and the Employment Agencies Regulations Act, to incorporate provisions related to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 189 on Domestic Workers

She recommended that a joint select committee of Parliament be established to address issues raised concerning security guards.

“We have reviewed the recommendations. We have taken into account the stability of the Jamaican economy, the rate of inflation and the economic circumstance of the workers, as well as the ability of the employers to absorb an increase,” the minister stated.

The National Minimum Wage Act, 1975, represents the need to protect certain categories of workers, who have no union representation, such as store clerks, industrial security guards, domestic workers and other workers in some small and medium-sized enterprise.

The minimum wage is defined as the lowest wage permitted by law that a worker can be paid in Jamaica.

The last time the rates were increased, in March, 2016, the NMW was increased to $6,200 per week for $155.00 per hour. This represented an increase of 10.7 per cent relative to the previously approved minimum of $5,500, or $140 per 40-hour week.

A new time-and-a-half hourly rate of $232.50 for work done in excess of 40 hours per week was also implemented, and a double time rate of $310 per hour was applied to work done on rest days and public holidays.

For industrial security guards the minimum wage was increased to $8,854 per week or $221.35 per hour from the previous $8,198.80 per week or $204.97 per hour.

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