Fr Barr on Wage Orders
COMMENTS ON WAGE ORDERS – OCTOBER 2012
The wage increases announced to come into effect in October 2012 are very disappointing. Let me make a number of points:
- Presenting the wage increases in terms of percentages is very misleading. Percentages hide the fact that the increases are relatively small. For example a 9.9% increase in the wages of garment workers is only about 19 cents an hour for the lowest paid workers in the country. It will bring their wages to just above $2.00 an hour. Beginners, of course will earn less.
- The low wage increases make a joke of government’s constant declaration that it wants to alleviate poverty. Unless wages are increased at a reasonable rate above the ever-increasing cost of living, then poverty will continue to increase (as it has in the past). Wages are a key issue for poverty alleviation.
- Also the low wage increases will not help to increase productivity. Employers and government are constantly talking about the need for greater productivity in the country but workers will not be encouraged to be productive with such low increases. Who wants to work harder for such small wage increases?
- It is a scandal that the Hotel and Catering Industry is given such a small increase. This industry covers the tourist industry which claims to be a million dollar industry and receives a handout of $23m in the budget yet it doesn’t want to pay its workers a decent wage. Of course Hotel and Catering also covers smaller restaurants but these can be provided with a smaller increase.
- It is claimed that the new wage increases keep pace with the cost of living or inflation but they don’t. The last increase in May 2011 was almost 18 months ago and it came in after a delay of over a year and was reduced by 5%. In that time inflation has increased considerably.
- There was no provision in the calculations to make up for the lost or “stolen” wages over 30 years due to employers not allowing wages to keep up with the cost of living. This is the “catch-up” factor. (cf Report of Wadan Narsey, 2006)
- Of course the small lobby of greedy employers has once again got its way with government in a way consistent with crony capitalism. The protests of a few employers has won out over the needs of 60% of workers in full-time employment. I was informed that over 5000 signatures of workers were also presented to the Minister for Labour and the Prime Minister but it seems that their voice counts for nothing.
- This government is more and more declaring itself to be anti-poor and anti-worker and that is very sad for those who had hoped that greater economic justice might finally be championed in our country.
(Fr Kevin J. Barr)