Torn between the support from union bodies across the country and the complaints of the local private sector which has not recovered from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Labour Minister, Joseph Hamilton, on Tuesday said he was seriously considering signing and issuing the order necessary to bring into force the new national minimum wage of $60,000.
The announcement came as he met with the Board and management of the Guyana Sugar Cooperation (GuySuCo) where he expressed surprise at the minimum wage being paid by GuySuCo.
During the brief engagement at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), Minister Hamilton reminded that a tripartite committee had agreed since 2018 to increase the minimum wage to $60,000. Although the agreement was reached, it required the minister to sign and gazette an Order to give effect to the decision; that was never done.
Even now with Minister Hamilton willing to move the process forward with the support of union bodies, the private sector has complained it may not be ready to accommodate an increase, given the economic situation the country has faced over the past year.
“The union says run fast but the private sector says take your time,” the Minister said.
Hamilton said he understands how giving effect to the new minimum wage would affect companies’ ability to pay staff and it may also lead to persons being laying off.
“I’m taking licks for the matter on all sides and I have to do what is best for everybody.
“The order will be issued but there is no timeline for this… I will make a decision shortly… it will come,” he assured,
Meanwhile, Hamilton said while GuySuCo was not in violation of the minimum wage, he was shock to learn that they were paying persons below $50,000.
He implored GuySuCo to approach Cabinet to discuss the impact a potential increase in the minimum wage would have on the company which is currently unable to pay workers their salary increases.
Chief Industrial Relations Manager at GuySuCo, Deodat Sukhoo, explained that GuySuCo was in conformity with the private sector minimum wage of $44,200.
“GuySuCo by itself is a company registered in its own right with its own Board and fall within the realms of a privately owned company… had it been a public entity over the last five years we would have received the increases,” he explained.
Sukhoo said the sugar cooperation was paying unskilled workers $47,000 while the clerical staff was being paid $60,000.
The private sector minimum wage has not increased since 2017, when it was raised from an hourly rate of $202 to $255, taking the monthly salary from $35,000 to $44,200 for a 40-hour week. Comparatively, the minimum wages for the public sector is currently $70, 000.