Government needs to introduce a policy to establish “a living wage”, a key figure in the international civil service community has suggested, even as she endorsed plans for a minimum wage law.
A living wage is defined as the minimum income reasonably expected to meet a worker’s basic needs.
Sandra Massiah, Public Services International’s sub-regional secretary for the Caribbean, had expressed disappointment that some employers would want to keep people at a minimum pay level even if they deserve more.
She said it was time that Government begins to talk about a “living wage”, adding that it should be a part of public policy.
Massiah said: “We actually want to talk about a living wage.
“To recognize, too, that there are some employers, and sad to say that they tend to be mainly in the private sector, who hear about a minimum wage and actually keep people at the minimum wage.
“The minimum wage is a lower level. The intent is that you want to raise people above the minimum wage.
“That is certainly a good move in terms of any government seeking to raise a minimum wage, but there must also be the policies that go along with it to make it very clear that we want to have a living wage.”
Only shop assistants are given a minimum hourly rate of $6.25 under the Shops Act. Government announced last week it intends to set a minimum wage for all categories of workers and pass a workers rights law.
Minister of Labour Colin Jordan said: “My ministry is actively exploring an increase in minimum wage that would apply to all categories of workers.”
On the workers’ rights bill, Jordan indicated that Government is working to complete “anti-discrimination legislation that would seek to protect both men and women from discrimination in relation to job creation, recruitment and employment”.
Massiah insisted that the new minimum wage be used as a “foundation”, stating that “they do whatever else must be done through collective bargaining, discussions in social partnership, social dialogue, that unions, employers and governments are working towards making those areas higher as high as they can be and actually promoting economic growth”.
“When people feel that they are valued, they put the work in,” she said, adding that collective bargaining has worked for Barbados over the years and she hoped that would continue.
But Massiah, who is conducting research into the pay among males and females in the health profession in the public sector, Massiah opted not to comment directly on any concerns about pay in either the public or private sectors.
But she told Barbados TODAY she would encourage any employees who have concerns to “join a union”.
“They do need the representation. I have heard some horror stories,” she said.
Massiah said she was aware that through union negotiations not only members get to benefit, but also the entire industry.
She said: “I think that point is something that a lot of people don’t understand. Unions actually raise the standard for the entire country.
“But those members who are working in private institutions, if they are able to add their voice to what is being done in the trade union movement then we can do so much more, not only at the national level but at the global level.