The Minimum Wage Advisory Committee begins its work tomorrow

By Shermain Bique-Charles

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The Minimum Wage Advisory Committee is expected to begin discussions tomorrow leading to a possible increase in the national minimum wage – and members will also examine the minimum for specific categories of workers.

The committee, which includes members from the Federation of Employers, the Chamber of Commerce and the Hotel and Tourism Association, among others, is expected to make recommendations and report to the Minister of Labor and Legal Affairs, Steadroy Benjamin.

The current minimum wage of EC$8.20 per hour has been in place since 2015.

“Instead of having a single national minimum wage for all, we can think of having different categories of workers, including hoteliers, skilled people such as contractors, masons [etc]. In the past, it was thought it would be safer to have a national minimum wage at all levels,” Benjamin said.

He said the committee also has the power to invite accountants and economists and any other person and organization deemed fit to participate in the process.

“They can invite anyone they think can help them find a realistic national minimum wage. They will look at working conditions, cost of living, and look at all of those factors in the context of the economy,” Benjamin explained.

Despite claims by some that the decision to create the committee is politically motivated, Benjamin insisted that the main reason for this widely welcomed step is due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a huge increase in the cost of the life.

“I intend to convene the committee to look at all the factors as the cost of living has gone up and inflation is on the rise. Covid-19 would also have wreaked havoc on all the other Caribbean islands,” he added.

Benjamin continued that as the cost of living increases, there should be an appropriate increase in the national minimum wage.

But he said, “That didn’t happen.”

He added: “We are concerned that our history of increases appears to be a minimum wage across all facets and sectors and that position cannot continue.”

In 1998, the minimum wage in Antigua and Barbuda was raised to $5.75 per hour from $4.60 previously, and in 2002 it was raised to $6 per hour. In 2006 it rose to $6.75 and in 2008 to $7.50, before its most recent increase to $8.20 in 2015.

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