Review still outstanding to increase private sector minimum wage

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Increasing the private sector minimum wage has been a heavily ventilated topic but movement is yet to be made on this front, initially stalled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is because the Ministry of Labour is still awaiting a review of the private sector’s recovery rate from the pandemic that is still affecting key sectors of the economy.

Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton on Tuesday told the News Room that with discussions still ongoing, the private sector continues to insist that the setbacks from the pandemic are a deterrent to implementing the proposed $60,000 minimum wage increase.

Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton (Photo: News Room/November 30, 2021)

The minister explained that at the last meeting held in May, the private sector proposed that a review is done by its membership to determine which sectors would be able to implement the increase in a staggered fashion.

While there is no timeline for completion of the review, Minister Hamilton said it appears that no movement has been made on this front.

“They are yet to return to me to say [that] this is the framework and I know they will be hard-pressed to do that because they have to determine who will go first,” he explained.

But even if the private sector returns with a review, the process will still be stalled as the life of the National Tripartite Committee (NTC) that is tasked with a number of labour-related matters between the government and business sector has expired.

The Committee has to be reconstituted first.

“I suspect that will take some time, maybe a week or two, so once those names come to me, I will prepare the necessary cabinet document and I will take it to the cabinet for ratification to have a new committee established and then we can return to the conversation about the raise the minimum wage,” the Labour Minister noted.

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has made no moves to start the review process. This is according to its Human Resource Committee Manager, Jairam Petam.

“That review was not done…but I will speak to the Chairman of the PSC to have it done at the earliest possible time,” he told the News Room when contacted on Wednesday.

Petam could not provide a reason why the review is stalled but assured that it would be completed before the PSC has its next meeting with the Ministry of Labour.

Minister Hamilton was keen to note that the private sector “should not be hard-pressed” to facilitate the increase since the pandemic situation has slightly improved in Guyana.

“I would say that the private sector should not be hard-pressed [because] the situation has changed. It is not what it was one year ago, it has changed for the better. I believe and I could say this based on everything I know that the private sector is at a better place than they were one year ago,” Minister Hamilton pointed out.

There has been no increase in the minimum wage of $44,200 since 2017. The then Ministry of Social Protection in 2017 increased the minimum wage from $35,000.

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