Barbados’ new minimum wage will take effect from Thursday, April 1, as indicated by Government.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley made that assertion tonight as she addressed the nation on a wide range of topics during a virtual press conference from Ilaro Court.
Members of the private sector called on Government to delay the start of the new minimum wage until early next year as a way of giving businesses a chance to “bounce back” having suffered losses resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Noting that Government was spending “significant sums” of money in both grants and loans to support the tourism sector and others in society, she stressed that they could not leave out those “at the very edge of the margin and [persons] who cannot make it easily”.
“To tell them to wait another eight months to be able to get another $10, $12 or $15 a day, which becomes absolutely critical to them, particularly given the fact that they have not had increases in a whole range of other issues, but prices have gone up, is not fair. It is unconscionable,” Ms. Mottley declared.
The Prime Minister said the last minimum payment for shop assistants was introduced almost a decade or more ago, in a world that has seen price increases of more than 40 per cent.
And, she added that while employees in the hotel, agriculture and public sectors were already paid above the minimum wage, there were those working in the retail sector, at gas stations and as domestics that also needed to be considered.
She further noted that the rate of pay for the post of Relief Watchman in the public sector also had to be revised.
“…We have to ask ourselves, will we really postpone? What is the right thing to do? Because as I have said over and over, there is never a wrong time to do the right thing,” Ms. Mottley said.
Noting that the new minimum wage was already cited in the Official Gazette dated March 30, 2021, the Prime Minister pointed out that there was consultation at every stage of the process.
“So, there is nothing new that is being represented, and I don’t mean that to be dismissive at all. The Minimum Wage Board, the Blue-Ribbon Committee, in fact was tripartite in nature,” she said.
She explained that submissions were accepted from persons and an extension given to allow persons to make up to three submissions.
“So, we have had three different sets of times for persons to say…we do not support this. But, after a while, you have to govern, and you have to decide…. Their judgment was January next year. Our judgment is April this year,” the Prime Minister pointed out.
Ms. Mottley stressed that while for some $10 or $15 was the equivalent of two drinks or chicken and chips, the reality for some was that it allowed them to put food on the table, or pay their light or water bill.
Acknowledging that there would be adjustments and consequences as a result of the increase in the minimum wage, the Prime Minister noted that history has shown that those benefitting contributed more to the economic activity in the country.