Come tomorrow, a national minimum wage will take effect because “it is the right thing to do”.
And even though Prime Minister Mia Mottley tonight admitted there might be job losses as a result of the increase in salaries, she maintained that workers at the bottom of the scale simply could not afford to wait any longer.
Speaking moments after exiting a five-hour meeting of the Social Partnership, the Prime Minister said she had listened to members of the private sector who had expressed concern about a national minimum wage being implemented at this time.
The business community had asked for the postponement of a national minimum wage until next year highlighting their fears that the increases at this time could further cripple businesses forcing more people on the breadline.
Describing the meeting as cordial, Mottley said “It is no secret that we are not necessarily on the same page as to the timing of it but I think the private sector themselves have also reflected that they too support the fact that the persons who are in fact not receiving what we consider to be an appropriate living wage in this country should have the benefit of so doing,” she said during a press conference at Ilaro Court.
“The last time in fact that we had a minimum payment set for shop assistants was almost a decade ago and the reality is that prices in that time have gone up by more than 40 per cent…and we have to ask ourselves will we really postpone what is the right thing to do?”
Mottley said for the most part workers in the hotel, agricultural and public sectors were paid above the minimum wage, but workers in the retail sector, gas stations and those working as domestics would be the main beneficiaries of the wage increase which will now start at $8.50 with $9.25 for security guards. A $6.25 minimum wage exists currently but only applies to shop assistants.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that there might be some casualties as a result of the implementation of a national minimum wage.
However, she contended that the move would be good for the country in the long haul.
“We know that there is an adjustment, but I ask myself if you are paying somebody who is working with you at $7 an hour and for the additional eight hours you must move to $1.50, I know that it is an adjustment but our business is never sustainable unless we are carrying all of the people that we need to carry, including treating the people who work with us appropriately,” Mottley said.
“I trust and pray that Barbadians will understand that this is a moment for adjustment, this is a moment for right sizing and doing the right thing and there may be some consequences but we are satisfied that in the long run it will work.
“I trust and pray that we will as a society recognize that this is the right thing to do and that there are certain people in this country that to ask them to live on $48 a day times five is really too much in this environment, particularly with prices over the course of the last decade having gone up,” the Prime Minister added.
Minister of Labour, Social Partnership Relations and the Third Sector Colin Jordan explained that the concerns of the business community were not disregarded.
He said Government had listened to their grievances and addressed them accordingly.
Jordan disclosed that the changes were made to the gazetted order which came out last night that were not in the draft order which was published between 47 to 50 days ago, following issues that were highlighted by players in the security sector.
“That was as a result of Government being approached and looking at what was put on the table. It resulted in us going back to consult again with the security sector. We also consulted again with the trade union and coming out of that we made an adjustment to the second schedule of the order, so this Government listens,” Jordan pointed out.