PRESS RELEASE : MINIMUM WAGE
“Unskilled workers also have the right to live with dignity and enjoy a decent standard of life”
The Attorney General has again recently attempted to clarify the minimum wage issue. His boast about his Government was the first to adopt the minimum wage is untrue. The fact is, minimum wages have been in existence for many different industries for decades through the Wages Regulation Order. This included unskilled workers. The reality is that when this Government introduced the National Minimum wage, it was lesser than that stipulated in the Wages Councils and even after the two reviews that the Government has done, it continues to be lesser than that stipulated in many Wages Councils. This is further compounded by the fact that this Government has introduced the National Employment Centre (NEC) which is supposed to be creating employment. The wage rates there are at $60 a week without any other benefits or minimum conditions that apply to other workers under the Employment Relations Act. This is plain exploitation of our young people and first time job seekers. The reality is that these workers are today replacing permanent workers in jobs. So we have a Government that says it has implemented a minimum wage but then goes to implement a further minimum wage and institutionalize exploitation of workers. This is nothing to be proud of for any Government. While the NEC may claim to have created jobs, it fails to count the number of jobs that have been lost due to cheap supply of labour by the NEC.
The Attorney General claims that the minimum wage is for unskilled workers. Let me remind the Attorney General that unskilled workers also have the right to live with dignity and enjoy a decent standard of life. They too need all the necessities of life like decent food, housing, water, meet family needs etc. It is for them that a decent minimum wage needs to be set. They must not be the exception to the rule as the Attorney General appears to be suggesting. The AG’s further explanation that free transport, education etc. subsides the minimum wage is flawed. Not every unskilled worker enjoys those benefits. We are only too aware of the cost of uniforms, shoes and lunches that are a necessity for children which are not subsidized. The AG’s response on Minimum Wage only exposes how out of touch he is with the needs of the common women and men who slog day and night to make ends meet.
It is time for the AG and his Ministers to live on a minimum wage so that they may understand how tough life can be on $2.68 an hour. It is much easier to cloud the issues around minimum wage with all the fancy garb that makes no sense to those living on minimum wage.
The FTUC insist on a $4.00 minimum wage as a starter to be reviewed annually. It is time for Government and the AG to understand that a decent minimum wage is a human rights issue as it is a Constitutional Right under the Bill of Rights. There is no point in writing into our Constitution the words “Right to economic participation”, “Right to reasonable access to Transportation”, “Right to Housing and sanitation”, “Right to adequate food and water”, Right to Health”, “Rights of Children” and “Rights to persons with Disability” when you don’t even pay them enough for decent food. These are what the Government must strive to achieve and the minimum wage is just the beginning of that goal.
We have an AG who brushes aside and attempts to explain the shameful $2.68 an hour minimum wage as for those only who are unskilled workers, as if they were not human and did not deserve a decent life.