Labour Minister to re-engage Private Sector on minimum wage increase

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Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton

The Guyana Government’s announcement of a 7% increase retroactive increase for all public servants has triggered widespread discussions on the wages and salaries received by employees in the private sector.

Shortly after taking office last year, Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton had disclosed that he would be issuing an order to increase the Private Sector minimum wage from $44,200 to $60,000 for a 40-hour week.

However, while an order to this effect was made, there was no timeline for its enforcement.

In fact, it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it had on businesses.

But Minister Hamilton has reassured that his Ministry is working closely with the various private sector bodies to achieve a better minimum wage for workers.

“Everybody agreed that the present minimum wage must be increased. What we have not conclusively dealt with is the timing of the order issued by the Minister – bring that into effect. So that is where we at,” he stated.

According to Minister Hamilton, only last week he asked the Chief Labour Officer to convene a meeting with the National Tripartite Committee to “discuss this matter and bring it to a conclusion.”

The Tripartite Committee consists of the Labour Ministry, the Private Sector and the Union.

“I have had and I’ve been having continuous conversation with the private sector. When I came here, the private sector raised the issue of the intervention of COVID and therefore that was a fundamental issue in the conversation within the Tripartite Committee. The Union reps of course [were] saying, ‘Sign the order now’ and the private sector is saying, ‘Give us some time to revive’ from the pandemic,” he explained.

However, the Labour Minister noted that government had to be cognizant of both arguments that were proffered.

“The worst thing I could do or the government, is to have to minimum wages willy-nilly increased and then a small entity that had 30 employees, they had to send home 10… So we have to be mindful, we have to be careful that that don’t happen,” the Minister posited.

But now that it has been a year and the country has been on the path to recovery from the pandemic, Minister Hamilton will be reengaging the private sector on enforcing these increases. That meeting of the tripartite committee could be held as early as next week.

The Tripartite Committee was set up under the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) regime to review increasing the Private Sector’s minimum wage.
The committee had recommended an increase to $60,000 from the current $44,200 per month.

In January 2017, the Private Sector’s minimum wage was increased from an hourly rate of $202 to $255, taking the monthly wage from $35,000 to $44,200. The Public Sector minimum wage currently stands at $70,000.

The Minister also contended that only approximately 10% of private sector employees are paid minimum wage with the remaining vast majority receiving above this pay grade.