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New liveable wage still viable option

LABOUR and Immigration Minister Keith Bell. (File photo)

LABOUR and Immigration Minister Keith Bell. (File photo)


Tribune Business Reporter

A cabinet minister said the government has not backtracked on its promise to deliver a “liveable wage” for Bahamian workers.

Keith Bell, Minister for Labour and Immigration, speaking to reporters ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, said that whether the government pushes ahead with a minimum wage or a liveable wage will all come down to “how it is rolled out.”

Mr Bell also said with regard to the minimum wage: “When we do lift it, we have to make sure we get it right and that is why I ask for your patience and endurance that we don’t move very swiftly to do something and then we make errors or have to come right back again to adjust.”

The liveable wage promise that the Progressive Liberal Party made while in opposition can become muddled in the talk about a minimum wage. While they sound the same, the two are distinctly different.

A minimum wage is the lowest remuneration that employers can legally pay their employees — the price floor below which employees may not sell their labour.

On the other hand a liveable wage is defined as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs.

The University of The Bahamas in a September, 2020 paper concluded that a liveable wage in New Providence and Grand Bahama is $2,625 and $3,550 per month respectively.

Private sector proponents have balked at these figures, calling them unrealistic at best. However, the government is committed to working towards it as Mr Bell states.

Mr Bell also said: “As it relates to minimum wage. That’s something that we promised for in our Blueprint for Change. So far, the government has gone ahead and ensured that we lifted the minimum wage for public servants.

“So we anticipate, again, soon enough that there would be even more moves on that. Let me say that, as it stands, cabinet is in discussions and it’s going to be presented to cabinet and holistic approach, the National tripartite Council has met, and they’ve made some certain recommendations which are before the cabinet.

“Once that happens, then we will come on to inform the Bahamian people what it is that we’re looking at, but certainly we know that there has to and there will and there will continue to be dialogue and consultation on this minimum wage.”

The public sector minimum wage mandate came into for in July and is now set at $225 per week, but when will this be for private sector employers remains up to a matter of timing.

“This isn’t about something we want to coerce anyone into doing and we have to be mindful in terms of striking a very delicate balance by in terms of what it is that we want to make minimum wage or liveable wage, as well as we have to ensure that we have respect for the pocketbook of the private employers,” Mr Bell said.