An increase in minimum wage for government employees will not come in this budget year, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday, contradicting a statement made by his colleague, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes a day earlier.
Turnquest said it is unclear exactly when it will happen, because the matter is still before Cabinet.
“We do not have in our budget this year for a minimum wage [increase],” he said outside Cabinet.
“Cabinet is still discussing the matter, so it would be premature for me to give any definitive statement on it.
“But, as you know, we are in the middle of negotiations for a number of unions and some are about to come up, so this will all be a part of the discussions that we have going forward in terms of how we address all of the labor issues that are before us and try to settle all these matters as quickly as possible.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Friday that “the minimum wage that government pays its staff, that will be elevated”.
However, he said the private sector minimum wage cannot be increased without more consideration.
The minimum wage is $220. It is unclear how much the government intends to raise that by.
Asked whether there are any plans for an increase to the private sector minimum wage, which is currently $210 a week, Turnquest could not promise anything and said the issue is not a simple one.
“We have to ensure that we don’t do things that may create any immediate gratification but cause long-term issues,” he said.
“We are already a high cost destination. And as we increase the cost of doing business, these costs go on to add to the costs of providing services to the community, and we just have to be careful.
“We appreciate that there are those on the bottom rung that need a hand up. And we encourage the private sector to do as much as they can to help us to raise that minimum standard. The government is looking at its own perspective as to what it can do to help to bring up the standard, and hopefully the private sector will see it within their capability and business plans to be able to do the same.”
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis has called for the government to implement a living wage. However, Turnquest said it may not be able to do that without stifling economic growth.
“Everybody would advocate and support a livable wage,” he said.
“However, there are limitations in any system. Those of us who have been private sector employers know what the pressure is of all of the personnel costs that are part of operating a business, and particularly a service business.
“So we have to take all these things into account to make sure that we don’t stifle the growth that we’ve started to see over the last two years. We have been on a reasonable path and we have to make sure that we continue to stoke that and not do anything that may discourage people from investing and from the continued upward trend that we’ve seen.”