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posted 9 Sept 2010, 05:49 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 Sept 2010, 12:45 ]
by Gerry Kangalee
“Mr. Speaker, the provisions for a new minimum wage will continue to be reviewed.” That dismissive statement made by Minister of Finance Winston Dookeran in the Budget Speech of September 8th confirmed the widely-held suspicion that the labour movement’s influence in the government was negligible.

On July 15th Errol McLeod, Minister of Labour, promised that the new minimum wage would have been announced by the end of July (Daily Express, July 16th 2010). On August 24th, the Minister said: "A proposal went to the Cabinet more than a month ago. That proposal is still being considered by the Ministry of Finance,"

He went on to promise an improvement in the minimum wage by September 8th (Budget Day). That fateful day has come and gone and the minimum wage is still under review. It is obvious that McLeod’s colleagues are not impressed with his political strength and are more concerned with the concerns of the employer class who heavily supported and financed the People’s Partnership.

Information coming out of the Ministry of Labour suggests that McLeod has come under immense pressure since the elections from employers over the minimum wage increase and has expressed frustration over the situation, having bent over backwards to appear “reasonable” to his capitalist colleagues.

Middle class media and political commentators have been saying the minimum wage is an illusion and that the large majority of employers pay more than the legal floor. The reality is that there are thousands of workers in the country, particularly in the retail, gas station and security sectors who are paid the minimum wage. Many of them are female and economically vulnerable.

This issue suggests that the strategy of the labour leaders who jumped into bed with the employers in a far-fetched bid to influence them into adopting more labour-friendly, less neo-liberal policies has, predictably, crashed and burned. The employers are going to determine the level of the minimum wage, but don’t be surprised that wherever the wage ends up our bold-faced labour leaders will go through contortions to spin it into a victory for the workers. The more things change….