A national minimum wage is still on the cards, Minister of Labour Colin Jordan has declared.
Jordan gave the assurance as he spoke with the media during May Day celebrations at the Barbados Workers’ Union Solidarity House headquarters on Wednesday.
A Minimum Wage Advisory Committee has been holding talks on the “mechanics” of a national minimum wage law, one of the labour party’s election promises, he said.
Under the current law, the Shops Act, a minimum wage is only in effect for shop assistants.
Jordan told reporters: “We have spoken to the employers representatives at a committee meeting and we have indicated to them that like we have done in Government since we came into office, there is going to be a sharing of information but also a sharing of the burden of adjustment.
“We have been very clear to say that the burden of any adjustment must not be on the backs of workers alone, so workers have had to bear some of the weight of adjustment but capital – businesses – have borne some of it, [and] tourism businesses have had to pay increased taxes.”
But the labour Minister stressed that a national minimum wage must not be rushed and should benefit private sector workers.
Jordan said: “Like we did when we gave a pay increase for public workers very early on in our term of office we also recognise that those in the private sector will also have to get something but we will not do it rashly.
“We will consider it in a tripartite way… where we engage all sectors…. We will engage in the tripartite structure which is the minimum wage board…. We will work through what is possible and we will work through the mechanics of it and the timing of it but it is on the table.
“We are not doing this in an off-handed or rash or erratic kind of way; it must be thought through so as much as I am the Minister of Labour and a champion for workers there is an understanding that if an increase is to work, if it is to be sustainable then the businesses who have to pay it, must also be in a position to be able to pay it on an ongoing basis. So all things have to be considered before we make a decision.”
The Minister for the Social Partnership Relations further maintained that the Government had also sought to share the burden of structural adjustment across all sectors so workers would not bear the brunt of the island’s fiscal woes.
He said: “A significant part of the burden has been borne by creditors. People who have loaned Government money at a period of time when Government had an insatiable appetite for borrowing money and coming out of that we have asked capital creditors, lenders, to bear some of the burden with us.
“If they had not borne a significant portion of the burden, the impact on workers would have been unthinkable and that was a position we could not take.”