Shane Gibson in the House of Assembly.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government will raise the national minimum wage to $210 per week following months of research and negotiations on the topic, Labour and National Insurance Minister Shane Gibson announced in the House of Assembly yesterday.
The weekly minimum wage for public servants is already $210, but the minimum wage for private sector workers is currently set at $150.
The government’s planned 40 per cent increase is “significant,” Mr Gibson said during his budget communication.
Nonetheless, the increase would be less than the 100 per cent to 133 per cent increase recommended by Obie Ferguson, president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and John Pinder, president of the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU).
Both men recommended to the government that a minimum wage increase of between $300 and $350 be made.
The National Tripartite Council recommended the increase to $210, taking into consideration advice from local stakeholders as well as advice from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Organisation of Employers (IEO), the Inter-American Bank and CARICOM state officials.
This minimum wage increase “is a compromise,” Mr Gibson said.
He added: “There are many in the private sector, in the trade union movement who would like more. (But) everybody recognises that we are now just coming out of a recession. We are now turning the corner as the prime minister has said. It was important for us to reach a compromise and this is fully supported by the Chamber of Commerce. What we have to do moving forward is to put ourselves in a position where we could constantly monitor and review the minimum wage where we won’t allow another 14, 12, 13 years to pass before we have another increase in the minimum wage. And so we will rely on information from the Department of Statistics. We will rely on information provided from the Chamber of Commerce and Employers Federation. We will rely on information provided by the National Council of Trade Unions and the Bahamas’ Trade Union Congress and they recommended that to us, so we accept it. We will move on and we will have it reviewed again to see how we could increase in the future.
“Every merchant throughout the Bahamas should be happy for this increase. Unlike those individuals like us making plenty of money, these people who make the minimum wage spend all their money and I could understand why Super Value and Solomon’s and all of these business places could appreciate this increase because every single dollar made by these individuals will be spent. They have no room to save money. That is why we think it was widely accepted and we look forward to reviewing this again in the very near future. It is the view of this PLP government that this increase in the minimum wage is long overdue and will be welcomed by the working people of the Bahamas. I will add that while the government may not totally be satisfied with the figure that is being recommended, in light of the current economic situation we have decided to use it at this time.
“It is hoped that once the resolution to increase the minimum wage is adopted by both houses of Parliament, our government will amend the Minimum Wage Act whereby national minimum wage will be reviewed regularly to ensure that it keeps pace with the cost of living and never again citizens have to wait 13 years to see an increase,” he said.