Audley Shaw calls for US$5,000 minimum wage
A week after the House of Representatives voted to move the minimum wage to $6,200 per week, a long-standing member of parliament turned up in the legislature this week suggesting that the minimum wage be pegged to the United States dollar.
Audley Shaw, the man who shadows the finance portfolio for the parliamentary opposition, said Jamaica should move the minimum wage, as soon as possible, to US$5,000 annually.
However, Dr Peter Phillips, the finance minister, said while Parliament may want to consider the proposal, warned that it could lead to significant job losses among low-income earners.
If Shaw's suggestion for a US$5,000 per annum minimum wage is entertained, it would mean salary of $604,144 per annum or $12,586 per week for the lowest paid workers.
WEAKER PURCHASING POWER
Shaw, speaking during a debate on the first supplementary estimates of expenditure on Tuesday, said that devaluation of the Jamaican dollar has made the purchasing power of Jamaicans weaker.
"The minimum wage in 2012 was $5,000. The value of that in US dollars was 56 dollars. Then, today, we announce $6,200. What is the value of that in US dollars? Fifty-one dollars," Shaw said.
"I think we should have a minimum wage that is set at US$5,000," Shaw said while arguing "it would be closer to a living wage."
But Phillips said that the pegging of the minimum wage to the US dollar was one of several issues that required bipartisan consultation.
"We have to be careful. An instantaneous movement in the minimum wage, in the direction that you are proposing, would have the effect, immediately of putting many people out of work because their businesses would not be able to sustain their operations were you to just legislate that increase," Phillips said.
"While one can examine the notions, we have to look at doing so which is not disruptive," he added.