September 2, 2011
Minimum wages unlikely to increase anytime soon

Labour Commissioner Patrice Roberts Samuel does not envisage an increase in minimum wages any time soon, despite the rise in cost of living here.{{more}}

Roberts said that given the current economic situation, Vincentians may have to wait a while before they receive an increase in minimum wages, despite the rise in cost of living.

“Employers are crying out, and even where there are Trade Union agreements, we find that the Unions are not getting the increases that they thought they might get.”

“You have to look at the rise of commodity prices as well and take all those things into consideration, and then make a decision and see what’s best for the country,” she said.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, speaking at a press conference on Monday, indicated that public consultations must first take place before increases in minimum wages could be implemented, but noted that there may not be one on the horizon.

“We had given the commitment that every three or four years we will address the issue of minimum wages in accordance with the law.” Gonsalves said.

The last minimum wage increase was in 2008, with the one before that in 2003.

Roberts said that before there is an increase, Cabinet must first make the decision for the rates to be reviewed; this will be followed by the appointment of a wages council, comprising of 21 persons from the seven sectors of labour.

“You would have a chairman, a deputy chairman, one person representing employers, one representing employees and one independent (from each sector)… and they meet and submit their proposal to Cabinet….”

The Labour Commissioner indicated that this process may take months, or over a year to complete.

She indicated that the last increases in the various categories could be found on the department’s website:

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister noted that despite the economic turmoil, his administration was still able to issue increases in some areas; using the example of up to $4 million to persons on public assistance, which, he said offset some of the pressures being felt nationally.

“I knew we were going to have increased fuel prices. I knew we were going to have increased commodity prices, especially sugar, rice and flour and LPG gas. I could have taken the position that I’m leaving poor people money the same way…. I gave the increase so that when the sugar went up; the flour, the LPG or the transport, that they would have a little cushion to help them….”

“So having made all the strides which we have made by this government to take people out of indigence, I will do all that I can to prevent them slipping back into ‘dirt poor’ poverty.”