Commission seeks solutions for a liveable wage
Chairman of the Minimum Wage Commission, Ronald Robinson, has signalled that plans are afoot to start the process of achieving a liveable wage for Jamaicans earning at the minimum level.
Speaking at yesterday’s virtual press conference where Minister of Labour and Social Security, Karl Samuda, announced the new minimum wage of $9,000 to take effect on April 1, Robinson disclosed that the scope of the commission’s mandate has been expanded to find solutions to setting a higher cap of wages.
This, Robinson disclosed, will include a series of consultations and meetings with experts, as well as public hearings looking at how a higher cap on the minimum wage could be achieved.
“This issue of the liveable wage is front and centre of the discussions on the minimum wage and over the next couple of months, we will be engaging and have commissioned the services of competent persons from the university who will be working with us to address this fundamental issue,” he said.
“There will be a series of meetings, consultations, hearings that we will be having in a public way in how to reach this liveable wage.”
Robinson continued, “It is not a very simple issue, and so all of the economic parameters and all of the conditions must be taken into consideration before arriving at that figure, because we are a developing country and we have a peculiar set of issues.
“The good thing is that it is now front and centre and we are now heading in that direction.”
He further stated that one of the expanded roles the commission will embark on this year will be the constant monitoring and reviewing of the circumstances under which a wage increase is designed.
“Things such as economic indicators, workplace conditions, and on a timely basis, so that if we believe that things have changed dramatically, it is within our remit to say to the minister in an advisory note that there needs to be a review, so that there is a mechanism in place to support the minister with a constant review of conditions – working, financial and economic conditions,” Robinson stated.
‘TRAIN THE WORKERS’
Minister Samuda stressed that in order for minimum wage earners to be paid more, employers must invest in training and reskilling their workers with the use of technology in order to boost productivity.
“We intend to have discussions with the Employers’ Federation and we intend to press upon them to pay particular attention to training of workers rather than rely on one factor of production, which is labour, as the main factor by which you assess your ability to make a profit. I feel very committed to the view that application of appropriate technology in today’s world, especially among the young, is the way to go for the employer,” said the minister.
“Train the workers, make them more efficient, and make them more productive to be able to create the kind of output that will cause the country to earn more money. So that it’s not a matter of asking for an increase, workers will command an increase based on the output they are able to provide, based on the training they have received, based on the use of applied technology. That’s the direction the country has to go in.”
Notwithstanding the need for higher wages, however, the minister emphasised that minimum wage should not be seen as a definite ceiling on what workers should be paid, and implored employers to pay workers more where necessary.
“This is the minimum wage, not a liveable wage, because many people cannot survive comfortably at this level. But it certainly provides a base to build on,” Samuda stated.
Yesterday’s announcement of a 25.8 per cent increase on the current weekly minimum wage comes in the wake of inflation reaching a new high of 9.7 per cent in January.
This has been attributed to a sharp increase in consumer prices, driven by the cost of food and beverages, up 10 per cent, according to the latest Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) report.
Transportation cost is up by 14 per cent, and utilities and gas, up 11 per cent, with the costs of food and non-alcoholic beverages having the most influence on the inflation rate.
Among the new increase in wages, security guards will see their weekly pay move from $9,700 to $10,500 per 40-hour workweek.
The allowances payable to security guards will also be increased.