Chamber: Get cost of living ‘in line’ to alleviate wage concerns

Chamber: Get cost of living ‘in line’ to alleviate wage concerns

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Chamber of Commerce’s top labour specialist yesterday suggested getting this getting the cost of living in this nation ‘in line’ and eliminating the tax burden on Bahamians are key areas that must be addressed in alleviating wage concerns in the country.

Peter Goudie, who heads The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) labour division, noted that wage concerns in the country must be addressed on “all fronts.” 

He spoke with Eyewitness News as the country’s minimum wage of $260 per week has come into effect for the private sector. 

Goudie opined that the introduction of an increase from $210 to $260 is not “a big issue” as it was foreshadowed even well prior to Prime Minister Philip Davis’ announcement last October.  The bigger issue he suggested was the issue of a liveable wage.

“Anyone who had problems with it would have expressed it when it was announced but everyone was expecting it,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s a big issue. The biggest issue is the continued talk about a livable wage when no one knows what it is. The International Labour Organization has agreed to study it. What I’m really waiting on is a report by the ILO so we can get a handle on what everyone is talking about,” said Goudie.

University of The Bahamas (UB) researchers, in a study produced in 2021, pegged Nassau’s monthly living wage at $2,625, while the equivalent for Grand Bahama was $3,550 per month.

Goudie noted that the demand for higher wages is directly linked to the country’s high cost of living. 

“Our problem is that we have successive governments which have spent millions dealing with problems at BPL, Water and Sewerage and Bahamasair,” he said.

“That’s what’s costing us so much money in our country. Maybe if we stop pumping so much money into these state-owned enterprises we could do better. If we reduce the high cost of living in the country people wouldn’t complain so much about wages. We need to look at what we can do to get our cost of living in line,” said Goudie.

Business consultant Mark A Turnquest, president of the 242 Small Business Centre and Resource Centre, cautioned business owners against staff reductions in light of the minimum wage increase.

Turnquest said: “Depending on your business model my recommendation to small businesses out there is not to be too hasty to lay off staff. We understand the increase but you need to focus on other activities, buy in bulk and train your staff fin customer service to increase sales.”

Turnquest said that employees also need to do their part and exceed the quality of service expectations.

“The time is right and the government needs to do what it can to increase the productivity level of the country. The government should focus on running the small business community together and focus on trying to assist the government with how they could increase their capacity to save the small business community,” said Turnquest.