BCCEC: Debate on minimum wage must be considered holistically
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The debate surrounding minimum wage and whether it is time to increase it once again, cannot be had unless the government considers that the inflation is also affecting businesses and entrepreneurs, according to Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Beckles.
“I can’t comment on what measurement that [Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie] Ferguson [used to determine] that businesses are doing well,” he said. “What we can say is this: we believe that the whole conversation has to be taken in a holistic approach.”
Ferguson has encouraged for an increase, saying Bahamians businesses were doing well enough to support the increase at this time.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes indicated last week that there were some discussions over increasing the minimum wage, though Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest has said an increase to the minimum wage in The Bahamas is not currently on the table.
The union president suggested that minimum wage be increase to $300 per week, a nearly 43 per cent increase for public service workers.
Minimum wage was increase from $150 per week to $210 per week in mid-2015.
It had not been adjusted previously since January 2002.
While Ferguson maintained that businesses have been “doing well” enough to accommodate an additional increase, Beckles indicated that now more than ever, owners have been faced with cost challenges, including the loss of revenue as a result of recent power outages, as well as the increase in value-added tax last year.
VAT was increased from 7.5 per cent to 12 per cent.
In an interview with Eyewitness News Online, The Shoal Bistro owner Bobby Lightbourne explained he would not mind giving a salary increase, but only if there were better standards of productivity.
The local business owner said for the past four years he has been running his operation it has been a struggle to find competent workers who possess basic skills such as reading and writing comprehension.
“When you hire a person, they put their best foot forward for about two weeks and then they goof off; they steal time, which equates to dollars and cents and if employees continue to steal then it’s hard to say whether or not you can give an increase to salaries,” he said.
“A lot of people just cannot comprehend. I receive applications all the time and some [people] cannot even read nor write. If we discuss pay increases, then we need to increase employee standards.
In March, National Tripartite Council (NTC) Chairman Robert Farquharson made a similar argument.
At the time, Farquharson said an increase in wage should be coupled with increased productivity
Peter Goudie, a member of the NTC, said, “[The] last thing we want to do right now is increase the cost of business.” Instead, Goudie said the council was looking to boost worker and corporate output through a national productivity council.