Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan. (FP)

Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, is adamant that while there is really no good time to add costs, now is the time for an increase in the minimum wage.

In response to a question on VOB’s Sunday Brass Tacks programme, about the timing of the new national minimum wage, he told moderator, David Ellis: “I have sat where employers sit, managing the business and also running one, and the reality is that there is really no time that a business would want to add costs. There is no good time.  

“I have been in business from the time I was born; there is just no good time but I would like to say this: a business model that is predicated on a wage that does not allow its workers to be able to make ends meet, is not a good business model.”

Stating that his experience of growing up in a micro business helped him to understand the challenges of small businesses, Minister Jordan said: “I would say to everybody who’s listening, if my business model does not allow my workers to be able to eat properly, clothe themselves properly and support the two, three or four other persons who they are responsible for, then something is wrong…. 

“Workers, for me, are the most important part of any business, even if the business is a highly automated business, workers are the most important. But, the critical thing for me is that workers are human beings as opposed to machines.… They have to at least be able to live…. Now, I’m saying to you, that the percentage increase on the wage is not the percentage increase on the total costs of any company.… It is not the total percentage increase because payroll or wages represents a portion of the costs… and an increase in the portion of the costs that relates to workers is in my mind justifiable at any time.”

Pointing out that many people had noted it was overdue, Minister Jordan stated: “We have not even gone to the point of trying to work through what is called a living wage because we suspect, strongly so, based on the information that we have so far, that it is going to be way above $8.50. But that $8.50 was chosen going through a pretty rigorous process, and a lot of consultation; that was chosen because it represented for us and for the process, a starting point, a number that took into account that these are not the best of times. We are in a serious situation, and so we have to do this in stages.”

As he reiterated his concerns for workers, Mr. Jordan maintained that good or bad times in an economy meant different things for different kinds of businesses. Elaborating, he said: “So, when an economy is, as we may say, booming, there are businesses that are under pressure. And, when an economy is not doing well, there are businesses that are doing well and we believe the outcome of an increase at this point will speak to productivity improvements, because there are people who will not be able to meet all their expenses, but they will find themselves in less difficult circumstances.

“So that speaks to productivity, it speaks to the psychosocial position and we are also very clear in our minds, that the increase in wages will go back directly into the economy. The persons who will benefit from this increase are not people who have money that they can put down on the bank or the credit union. They’re not saving it up to go to Miami when travel resumes. These are people who have bills to pay higher purchase accounts that they need to get up-to-date; food that they need to buy for themselves and their relatives.”  

The national minimum wage took effect from April 1.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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