Pay push

govt considers minimum wage

Government is to establish a special board to advise on a minimum wage for this island’s workers.

Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo made the announcement in the Senate this morning as she led off debate on the Minimum Wages Bill, which was passed in the Senate this evening, repealing the Wages Council Act of 1955.

She pointed out that only about 30 per cent of workers here were unionized.

“For the majority of the workers therefore, their wages are set arbitrarily and while they may be uncomfortable with those wages, while they may not be satisfied that those wages can actually allow them to meet at least a minimum standard of living, there’s very little that they can do. So that is why we’re here today to establish this minimum wage board,” she said.

The move follows the establishment of a minimum wage advisory committee in Antigua and Barbuda, an equal wages commission in St Lucia, and a wages advisory committee in Grenada.

However, Dr Byer-Suckoo said Barbados was yet to decide whether it wanted to have a national minimum wage or a minimum sectoral wage. In making that decision, she said the board would need to take into consideration several social and economic factors.

“The idea, as articulated in the legislation . . .  is that you would look especially at those sectors for which there is no appropriate machinery for examining wages and setting wages,” the minister told the Upper House.

During her presentation, Dr Byer-Suckoo also raised concern over new practices which she said were creeping into the local labour market and stood to place workers at a disadvantage.

She highlighted “zero-hours” contracts, explaining that many workers were currently engaged on contracts with no specified hours of work, and none of the traditional employee benefits.

“In a nutshell, essentially, you work for whatever work we give you.  If you work for an hour this week, that’s it.  If you work for two hours next week, that’s fine. There’s no minimum that says you work 40 hours or if you’re part-time you work 20 hours,” Dr Byer-Suckoo told the Senate.

However, she expressed the view that while such arrangements may be useful for people who want to supplement their income or students looking for part-time work, “we have a concern where that kind of arrangement replaces the proper contract of employment that we are used to”.

The minister revealed that local trade unions were also looking into this practice with a view to ensuring that with all that was currently being done to protect workers, “we are not allowing this practice to slip in without being monitored.

“As a zero hour contract there’s not attached to it anything about national insurance and social security, and those provisions that we have worked long and hard to preserve and protect for our workers here in Barbados,” she said.

Dr Byer-Suckoo also said “micro-jobbing”, which allows employers to offer temporary work to individuals, either in person or online, was another concern.

“Again, similar to the zero-hour contract where you would just get a little job here today to do this . . . and that’s it until they call you again, [it] may be appropriate for certain groups of persons, but over the long term it is not something that we want to see,” Dr Byer-Suckoo stressed.

6 Responses to Pay push

  1. Ali Baba
    Ali Baba February 1, 2017 at 11:08 pm


  2. Hal Austin February 2, 2017 at 5:08 am

    What is needed is a standing prices and income commission, not just a special board.
    What impact will a minimum pay policy have on jobs. The private sector will reduce their work force and make the remaining workers produce more; the real impact will be on taxpayers since public sector workers will get the minimum pay. The badly managed small hoteliers, where the worst wages are, cannot afford it. These are zombie companies just waiting to curl up and die.
    Do not let Napolean Trotman set government policy, or is a general election approaching and government is buying votes in advance?

  3. Donild Trimp February 2, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    The first step is to outlaw zero hours contracts. This is not something that is now creeping into the Barbados economy. “Work for whatever hours we give you” was around for ages in Barbados. It must go.

    The way Barbados is structured, a “minimum sectoral wage” is the way to go. A national minimum wage can lead to wider un-employment.

  4. Sue Donym February 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    A National Insurance scheme with their various compulsory reporting elements, actuaries, accountants; ministry of finance; ministry of economic affairs; ministry of labour; statistical department. Do we really need another board/commission/consultancy to pay some obscene amount to? Can’t there be a committee selected from agencies already paid to produce the information that would be considered in making such decisions?

    Bad enough that it’s being debated in an irrelevant, unelected unnecessary senate! Sigh…

  5. Hal Austin February 2, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    You need a body independent of government, if not business and trade unionists will see its decisions as biased. Even so, they still will..

  6. Sue Donym February 2, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Won’t a minimum wage protocol also include government departments and statutory corporations? It should certainly not be that government escapes it’s responsibility to pay a decent salary or that they are unnecessarily harsh on non-gov’t bodies. There’s already the discrepancy with contributions to NIS by private employers as well as the levels of deductions from employees


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