Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Minimum wage goes up

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2016 | 1:00 AM

A testy stand-off between government and opposition members in the House of Representatives yesterday nearly overshadowed a long-awaited increase in the national minimum wage.

Opposition members of Parliament pushed back at the announcement of a 10.7 per cent increase in the national minimum wage, and eight per cent increase for security guards, labelling it an insult to the workers.

But Dr Fenton Ferguson, labour and social security minister, who announced the increased rates, said it is the best that can be done at this time.

The minimum wage for industrial security guards is to move from $8,198 for a 40-hour work week to $8,854 for a 40-hour work week. The insurance sums payable where a guard is killed on duty is to move from $2 million to $2.5 million.

The minimum wage for other Jamaicans is to move from $5,600 to $6,200 for a 40-hour work week.

The new rates take effect on March 1.

Inflation since 2010 has increased by 54.5 per cent, with the Consumer Point Index moving from 150.4 in December 2009 to 232.3 at the end of December 2015. At the end of 2009, the minimum wage was $4,070, and it is being moved to $6,200, an increase 52.3 per cent.

For the industrial security guards, the increase in their wages has moved 46.3 per cent over the period, having started 2010 at $6,050.

"The Government is appealing to those employers who can pay wages that are higher than the wages set out in the order to do so," Ferguson said.

Meanwhile, South East Clarendon MP Rudyard Spencer has suggested that a committee of the House should deliberate and seek to find a way to arrive at a livable wage.

He argued that the increase being granted was insufficient as the weekly increase proposed would only allow a minimum-wage earner to buy four patties.

"The 10 per cent increase falls far short of the realities that workers face," Spencer said, adding that a 40 per cent devaluation in the Jamaican dollar over the past two years meant that the purchasing power of workers has been eroded.

SENSIBLE RECOMMENDATION

Spencer said that a minimum wage committee would eliminate the need for Parliament constantly reviewing minimum wages.

"I believe that it is a sensible recommendation going forward," Ferguson said.

The Cabinet approved the increase in the minimum wage on Monday after the labour minister received a report from a commission set up to review the current wage.

"In recommending an increase, the commission took into account factors such as the state of the economy, the cost of utilities and transportation, the MoU between the Government and trade unions, and the Government's economic recovery programme under its current agreement with the International Monetary Fund," Ferguson said.

- D.L.