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Workers propose 10-20% minimum-wage hike

Published:Tuesday | March 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Vincent Morrison ... says its time for Jamaica to adopt a living-wage policy. - File
Brenda Cuthbert (R)... says employers will submit minimum-wage proposal by April 1 deadline. - File

Trade unions and the Jamaica Household Workers' Association (JHWA) are batting for a 10-20 per cent increase in the National Minimum Wage.

Other groups have recommended increases of up to 50 per cent, it emerged in annual consultations that wrapped up in mid-March after three weeks of meetings in Manchester, St James, Port Antonio and Kingston, staged by the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission (MWAC).

But the Jamaica Employers' Federation (JEF), representative of company bosses, is keeping its recommendation close to its chest, and is yet to submit its proposal to the commission.

Vincent Morrison, president of the National Workers' Union (NWU), said his group had recommended a 15 to 20 per cent increase.

He dismissed arguments that an increase was impractical at this time when the salaries of public-sector workers are subject to a two-year freeze.

"That is what is said about the minimum wage every time the commission meets. That is consistently what have been employers' position," said Morrison.

"And that is why we are recommending that the minimum wage be fixed at a liveable wage, that is, a wage which is well above the poverty line."

Automatic adjustments

A liveable wage would see automatic adjustments each year, in line with inflation.

"So all these massive consultations and consultants that are recommended, you could save all that cost if you follow this formula," he said.

The present minimum wage is now $4,070 per week for a 40-hour workweek and $6,050 per week for industrial security guards.

JWHA president Shirley Pryce said her organisation recommended a 10 per cent increase, which would work out to a new packet of $4,417 per week for her members.

"I know it is pressuring for employers but we tried to balance it because many of their wages will be frozen," she said.

"I do hope that the minister (of Labour Pearnel Charles) will have some compassion on the workers because they are really struggling."

Brenda Cuthbert, chief executive officer of the JEF, told Daily Business that the employers lobby had not yet made its submission to the commission but would do so by the deadline, which is April 1.

"I am not able to comment on that," Cuthbert said when pressed as to the level of increases that employers would recommend. "We are still in discussion with our members."

JEF president Wayne Chen has previously signalled his support for a review of the minimum wage, which was increased by 10 per cent, or $74 per day in the last review a year ago.


He was, however, cautious about the level of increases that should be granted.

"We have to be mindful that in the short and medium term, there will be tremendous pressure on the private and public sector to cut jobs," he said at the time.

"So we have to be careful that whatever increase we come with does not become a disincentive to creating more jobs."

Danny Roberts, a trade union representative on the MWAC, told Daily Business that the increases that were recommended during the consultations ranged from zero to 50 per cent.

The commission will make recommendations to Charles on the increase, after consideration of all submissions.