Halkitis: Minimum wage hike has to happen

The government hopes an increased minimum wage in the private sector will follow shortly after a new minimum wage in the public sector is introduced in July, Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis said yesterday.

The private sector minimum wage is $210. The public sector minimum wage is $225 and is expected to increase to $250.

While speaking at a weekly press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, Halkitis was asked whether the government expects to see an increase in the private sector minimum wage.

He replied, “It is the intention for it to go into the private sector as well. As you know, there is what is called a [National] Tripartite Council which is a collaboration between the government, the labor segment, which is represented by the labor unions, and as well as the employers, who are represented by the Bahamas Employment Confederation.

“What they do is they collaborate and they get together and then they make suggestions to the government on what the quantum should be and what the time should be. I understand that they are very close to making that presentation to the government.

“So, yes, … it is the intention. Of course, the government can control what it does in the public sector and, through its collaboration in the tripartite council as well. So, we expect that to follow shortly after [and] ideally, perhaps, at the same time.”

Halkitis said there has been some pushback from some private sector employers.

He said there will always be people who say the timing for the increase is off.

“The fact of the matter is that the cost of living is going up and we need to bring that relief,” he said.

“We hear that but the fact of the matter is if it wasn’t COVID, unfortunately, some people would always find a reason not to do it. Frankly, at the levels that the minimum wage is at now, people cannot live, so it is something that has to happen.”

In his budget communication on Wednesday, Prime Minister Philip Davis said there is a need for a minimum wage increase “because of the general erosion of spending power of ordinary Bahamians”.

He said this increase has been made even more urgent given the current level of inflation.

“To this end, we have submitted the proposal to BPSU (Bahamas Public Services Union) to increase minimum wage in the public sector with incremental increases starting in July 2022,” Davis said.

The cost of living has been a public concern for some time in The Bahamas, with residents frequently expressing frustration over increased expenses and stagnant salaries.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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