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Golding defends $12,000 national minimum wage

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

OPPOSITION Leader Mark Golding yesterday issued a strong defence of his proposal for a $12,000 per week national minimum wage, saying that the increase would help to address some of the issues of poverty facing the country.

“There has not been a wage adjustment at the very bottom of the scale for over three years, and since then there has been significant price increases,” Golding said at a news conference called two days after the People's National Party (PNP) concluded its 83rd annual conference.

The current minimum wage is $7,000 per week. It was set in 2018.

Asked whether the proposed figure would not seriously affect some employers whose salaries cannot meet that level of increase at this time, Golding responded, “As I said in my address [to the party's annual conference], I did my own little survey of comparing an invoice for a list of basic food items from the same wholesaler, a reputable wholesaler, in April and again in August, and the increase was just under 15 per cent. Now, as far as I am concerned, the minimum wage must bear some resemblance to the actual cost of living; and I believe that it is beneficial to the country for families headed by persons who are now earning a wage that is significantly less than the cost to live, even at the most basic level and where wages are really reinforcing poverty in the country.

“So, I believe that it is important that we set the minimum wage at a level that will allow people to survive in a better way, and their children would not suffer from the effects of a minimum wage that is significantly lower than the cost to actually live.

“So yes, I believe that there may be some employers who might not be able to employ somebody for a five-day week at that rate, but then if they can employ somebody for four or three days, then that person is free to do other things on those [other] two days; whether to earn additional income, or to do whatever they wish with their time. But, at least, I think for those employers who can afford to pay the minimum that I have suggested, they should do so, and I think it will actually, overall, improve the cohesion and address some of the issues of poverty in the country,” Golding stated.

In his speech to the conference on Sunday, Golding said that a PNP Government would not only increase the national minimum wage to $12,000, but would also commit itself to an annual increase in the figure, instead of the current cycle of up to three years.

Speaking about the conference, Golding said that it was a challenge to hold it in a virtual space with such a large number of people from across the island participating.

“Happily, we pulled it off, and the response has been positive and I think it has given the party a tremendous lift. I want to thank everybody again for the role that they played in making that possible,” he said.

General secretary of the PNP Dr Dayton Campbell said that based on the reports the party has received, the conference seemed “to be an overwhelming success”.

“Of course, there were glitches along the way, and that is inevitable with any first and it will improve going forward, but I think that it was a success,” he added.

He also noted that the party was able to get the conference to agree to a format for the future selection of a leader, which would be based on a much wider participation of members. However, he said that the issue would have to be discussed at various levels of its administration.