Mon | Jan 30, 2023

‘Minimum wage cannot feed anybody’

Westmoreland Chamber boss urges businessmen to ease labour shortage by increasing salaries

Published:Tuesday | November 29, 2022 | 12:05 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Moses Chybar, president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Moses Chybar, president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

WESTERN BUREAU: Moses Chybar, president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCCI), is urging the country’s business owners to pay employees above the minimum wage in an effort to, among other things, encourage people to work and...

WESTERN BUREAU:

Moses Chybar, president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCCI), is urging the country’s business owners to pay employees above the minimum wage in an effort to, among other things, encourage people to work and bring an end to the labour crisis in the country.

Chybar made that call at the WCCI’s annual fundraising dinner held at Hotel Commingle in Savanna-la-Mar on the weekend.

While noting that some people genuinely do not want to work and are embracing a get-rich-quick mentality, Chybar said there is a larger pool of persons who are willing to work, but when they consider their wages against their expenses, they reject certain job offers.

“People are out there who want to work and some of us business people, you know what we do, even though we can afford to pay more, we pay them minimum wage,” he said. “Minimum wage cannot feed anybody, so I am appealing to you, my business colleagues, if you can pay more than the minimum rate, pay it.”

The country’s minimum wage was last increased in April 2022 from $7,000 per 40-hour workweek to $9,000 for all categories of workers except security guards. As it relates to private security guards, the minimum wage has moved from $7,900 to $10,500 per week.

But Chybar, while referring to stagnation in the labour market, argued that the cost of goods and services has long surpassed the ability of people to live on minimum wage, noting that a simple basket of groceries is costing anywhere from $10,000 upwards for a family of two and much more for larger families.

“... When people look at their bus fare, when they look at their little lunch money and do the math, they realise that it just won’t work out,” he reasoned. “So we have to look at that as business owners. What can we do to make the staff a bit more comfortable?”

INCENTIVES

He urged operators who are not immediately in a position to increase salaries to consider incentives, including staff welfare initiatives.

“Some of the people want to work, but if the money that it costs them to go to work is more than the pay, unless they lick them head, they are not going to come,” the WCCI boss insisted.

Last week, Prime Minister Andrew Holness acknowledged that although the unemployment rate had fallen to six per cent, it was not an indication that the country does not have people who should be in employment amid the shortage crisis impacting several sectors.

“Right now we are experiencing, in some sectors, a labour shortage. The only reason why we have that labour shortage is that some people are in the business of making the country insecure and unsafe, and our job is to get them out of that business and get them into the business of making the country safe, secure and growing,” Holness said.

albert.ferguson@gleanerjm.com