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posted 28 Jul 2010, 08:21 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 28 Jul 2010, 08:27 ]
The most important feature of minimum wage-fixing machinery is the regular adjustment of the Minimum Wage. This is why the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), has taken issue with and is extremely critical of the former PNM regime over its mishandling of the wage-fixing machinery in Trinidad and Tobago. The Minimum Wages Board has been run like a secret society, because since 2008, the Board recommended thirteen dollars and fifty cents ($13.50) per. hour, as the new Minimum Wage. But the ruling PNM government shelved the recommendation to increase the minimum wage. The minimum wage was left at the ridiculously low figure of $9.00 per hour since 2005, although the PNM falsely promised to raise it to ten dollars (10.00) an hour, in the 2007/8 national budget.

The BIGWU is calling on all employers and businessmen to refrain from adopting an ill-advised and reactionary position concerning minimum-wage adjustment. If the PNM had adjusted the minimum wage at regular intervals, employers the labour market would not have been faced with a sudden increase. A twenty dollar minimum wage would increase the standard of living for the poorest and most vulnerable workers and will raise the average income. This minimum wage would will motivate and encourage workers to increase labour productivity unlike welfare transfer payments.

This minimum wage will stimulate consumption, by putting more money in the hands of low-income workers who spend their entire paychecks. It will also increase the work ethic, since employers will demand a greater return from the higher cost of hiring employees. This minimum wage will decrease the cost of government social welfare programmes by increasing incomes for the lowest paid workers. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between increases in the minimum wage and decreases in teenage employment. Most of all, the minimum wage increase will assist greatly in reduction of poverty.

BIGWU is calling on the government not to cause minimum wage workers to be paid less than what is contemplated to be paid to pensioners. Government will increase Old Age Pension (OAP) to three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) per month. The twenty dollar per hour minimum wage translates into three thousand, two hundred dollars ($3,200.00) for every four week cycle. BIGWU is also indicating to the Government that what the society should really be aiming at is a system of payment of living wages and not just minimum wages.

There are various methods of fixing the minimum wage; however, the internationally recommended formula is application of a figure which represents forty percent (40%) of the average wage paid in the country. The society will have to decide if it is building a work culture where the weakest are exploited to provide profits for ailing businesses or if it is willing to apply what is fair and just in the workplace. Whatever minimum wage is announced by Minister McLeod, that figure must be subject to biannual adjustments.

In the Service of the Working Class

Vincent Cabrera