Wed | Sep 23, 2020

Wages, productivity must top 2020 agenda – Roberts

Published:Monday | January 6, 2020 | 12:39 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

As the debate over the minimum wage gains momentum, labour expert Danny Roberts is suggesting that the Government, along with employers in the private sector, take steps to determine “what is a liveable wage” in 2020, and make adjustments to the base pay of workers until it catches up with a satisfactory level of compensation.

At the same time, Roberts, who is the head of the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Open Campus, is pushing for a productivity culture in the workplace which would constitute a major focus in wages and salaries negotiations. Jamaica’s minimum wage was last increased on August 1, 2018, moving from $6,200 to $7,000 per week.

In November last year, chairman of the National Minimum Wage Advisory Commission, Dr Donald Robinson, said recommendations around the national minimum wage and the minimum wage for security guards would be submitted to Labour and Social Security Minister Shahine Robinson by the end of this month.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, in his New Year’s message, said the parliamentary Opposition would be demanding that the minimum wage be increased to $12,500 this year, arguing that the present threshold was a major contributor to the 30 per cent growth in urban poverty.

Phillips’ proposal was brushed aside as unrealistic by Kavan Gayle, president general of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union.

Gayle said the recommendation should not be supported.

Roberts said that, in 2010, the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission asked The UWI to carry out a study on the bases of a liveable wage? He said the result of the preliminary study showed that it would take a 60 per cent increase of the minimum wage to bring the sum paid to workers at the bottom of the ladder to the level of a liveable wage.

He argued that achieving a liveable wage would not mean an overnight increase of the minimum wage by 60 per cent. However, Roberts said that the economy must grow and develop to the point where it could absorb the level of increases above the rate of inflation without having any negative implications or repercussions.