Increase in national minimum wage being “actively considered” by Cabinet

Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton

With cost of living on the rise, calls are being made for Government to implement the increase in the national minimum wage, but according to Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton, he is still awaiting the approval of Cabinet in order to give effect to the pay hike.

“The matter is being actively considered by the Cabinet,” Hamilton told this publication on Thursday.

However, the Labour Minister could not say when Cabinet would greenlight the introduction of the national minimum wage, which has been increased from $44,200 to $60,000.

This was after the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), in a statement on Thursday, called for the implementation of the increased national minimum wage which the National Tripartite Committee (NTC), chaired by the Labour Minister, had unanimously agreed to over two months ago.

“Since then, we have yet to hear from the Minister on the matter,” the union body has said. According to FITUG, which has long advocated for an improved national minimum wage, it is necessary now more than ever that minimum-wage workers benefit from the hike and see improvement in their pay levels.

“The Federation felt, given the all-round support, the approval of the hike was a mere formality, and we had high expectations that workers at this time would have benefited from the improvement.”

“Given the hikes in the cost-of-living, most recently evidenced by the substantial hike in the cost of fuel, there is no justification to continue to perpetuate denial of the improvement. We urge, at this time, that the procrastination be brought to an end and our nation’s workers receive the deserving hike in the national minimum wage,” the union has posited.

Shortly after taking office in August 2020, Minister Hamilton had announced the increase of the Private Sector minimum wage. However, while an order to this effect was made, there was no timeline set for its enforcement. This was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on businesses.

When the country began opening up last year, these talks resumed. The Labour Minister had been re-engaging the Private Sector on enforcing these increases.

Last year, when Government announced a seven per cent retroactive salary increase for all Public Sector workers, it sparked conversations about pay in the Private Sector. In fact, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana had called on private businesses to follow suit in order to attract and retain their workforce.

The Public Sector minimum wage currently stands at $70,000, and even with this increase for Private Sector workers, it would still be less. The Private Sector’s minimum wage was last increased in 2017, from an hourly rate of $202 to $255, taking the monthly wage from $35,000 to $44,200.

Minister Hamilton had previously explained that this increase to $60,000 would only impact about 10 per cent of Private Sector workers, who are currently being paid below that wage level.