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National minimum wage consultations start tomorrow

By Balford Henry
Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The National Minimum Wage Advisory Commission (NMWAC) will finally start consultations with stakeholders tomorrow on a new national minimum wage at Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson confirmed yesterday that the process, which is scheduled to start at 2:00 pm, will continue through to November 20 when the final consultations will be held at the ministry's head office on North Street, Kingston.

Other scheduled dates are September 24 in Port Antonio, Portland; October 16 in Mandeville, Manchester; and October 30 in St Ann's Bay, St Ann. Venues were not named for these meetings.

Despite the late start, the minister said that she expects that the process will be completed by January.

The functions of the commission are to consider and advise the minister on all matters relating to national minimum wages and any other minimum wages which may be fixed under the Act; and to obtain and record information in relation to wages and other remuneration, terms and conditions of work and all other factors affecting the circumstances of employment and remuneration of the various categories of workers.

The commission is also required to keep such information under continuous review and advise the minister from time to time regarding the categories of workers in relation to which a minimum wage should be fixed; the wage to be fixed; and other matters related thereto. However, this had not been happening for several months.

In the meantime, former chairman of the commission Human Resource Specialist Silvera Castro has been replaced by Dr Ronald Robinson, a special projects consultant at The University of the West Indies, who is also chairman of the Private Security Regulation Authority (PSRA), a statutory body under the Ministry of National Security.

The authority was established under the PSRA Act of 1992 and, following the rapid growth in the number of organisations and individuals operating in the private security industry, became responsible for a system introduced to hold the security companies and individuals accountable to some form of regulation and monitoring.

St Patrice Ennis, general secretary of the Union of Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Personnel, will continue to represent the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions. However, there is a likelihood that HR manager and representative of the Jamaica Employers' Federation (JEF) Bernita Locke will also be missing from the commission after some 10 years as a member.

Sources have informed the Jamaica Observer that she has asked the JEF to find a replacement as she will not be able to continue attending the meetings. However, the minister said yesterday that she is not aware of that, and expects Locke to continue sitting on the commission.

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.

In making a proposal for an increase to the Cabinet, the NMWAC considers the state of the economy; increased cost in utilities and transportation; the salaries memorandum of understanding between the Government and its employees; and the Government's economic recovery programme.