A new Minimum and Equal Wages Commission will be established within three months to set the stage for the creation of a minimum wage for the country.
Current Labour Minister, Stephenson King made the announcement yesterday while speaking to reporters, admitting there had been problems regarding the establishment of such a wage over the past years.
Saint Lucia has passed several Labour Ministers since the passage through parliament of the Labour Code and each had, at some point, made mention of the need to implement minimum wages for the different sectors of the economy. Needless to say, none to date has seen it fitting to ensure that under his or her watch that issue was settled.
The Labour Code has given the Labour Minister the power to put in place a minimum wage as noted in Division five, section 68, which states “the Minister may, by Order published in the Gazette fix a minimum wage for (a) workers generally; or (b) any class of workers generally or for any class of employees in a particular industry or undertaking, and such minimum wage shall be not less than the minimum wage specified pursuant to paragraph (a).
The Code also states that a Minimum Wage Order may contain such provisions as the Minister thinks fit and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing may – (a) specify hours of work and other terms and conditions of service or employment in relation to any minimum wage and (b) fix different minimum wages for employees in different categories of undertakings engaged in the same employment.
King admitted that at one time a flat minimum wage was recommended for Saint Lucia by a previous Minimum and Equal Wages Commission – which gets its powers from the Code, however this proposal never saw the light of day because “it lacked depth in terms of how do you set minimum wage for someone who works three days a week, someone who works a full week, one who works by the fortnight and one who works by the month.”
“The other thing is how do you determine a minimum wage for someone who works say in a garage as compared to a domestic assistant and as compared to a shopkeeper,” King explained.
“It is now necessary for us to look at this in greater detail and greater clarity to see how we allocate different classes of work and give appropriate minimum wages for those categories,” King said.
He said terms of reference, parameters and other things are being looked at including the report by the last Commission in order to get the right competence of personnel to form the new Commission.