The purpose of a minimum wage is to insulate workers at the lowest levels of employment from the ravages and scourge of poverty – employees who have not acquired the skills, education or experience necessary to sustain a livelihood without becoming a public charge.
It is common place that low paid workers – today of both genders – with no guarantee of a liveable minimum wage – the poor and vulnerable – to be harassed by sexually perverted bosses in whose hands power and authority lie.
Stressed and feeling powerless to resist and nowhere to turn, in despair lose hope, swallow their pride and silently but reluctantly surrender to the advances of those degenerates. They are victims of desperate and destitute circumstances cornered into the submissive survival mode – pride collapses and they are corralled into antisocial behaviour.
Stamped and stereotyped as moral and ethical miscreants, suicidal tendencies and addiction are escaped only by the strong willed. No wonder mental health is on a steep decline in Grenada.
Humanitarian and social justice demand that the elected representatives of the people carry out the duty and solemn obligation to protect and serve all the people. The social contract of the representatives of the people, voted into office in free and fair elections, commands livable conditions for all citizens. A minimum wage that discourages antisocial tendencies is part and parcel of that contract.
Beyond an established minimum wage, market forces – supply and demand – scarcity and abundance in the labour force will exert pressure over the market and in time adjust and find market equilibrium moving salaries and wages up or down.
At the higher levels of employment – collective bargaining – labour unions and collectives strike a balance against the excesses, abuses and unethical and illegal practices of large businesses and corporate corruption – flushing out and exposing excessive shareholder dividends that depress pay/salaries and other compensation benefits derived from the “blood sweat and tears” of ordinary and non-executive workers. The lowly worker has no such protection.
In the present construct there appears to be no innate morality. Governance must therefore include setting and maintaining the high ground of morality and humanity to protect its left-behind citizens.
The free press has a pivotal role in swaying public opinion and in labour disputes can move parties to amicable resolutions outside the ambit and competence of any government agency in deciding what are advanced skills and superior performance levels at the work environment.
The government’s proposed (A, B or C) performance standards are arbitrary, meaningless and unenforceable. The determinants of performance in the workplace are not new, well defined over years of negotiations between employers and trade unions; although differences arise from time to time in interpretation, the system has served the nation without major hindrances to its economic development.
A number of factors including: education, experience, up to date and well-maintained working equipment, safety measures, well maintained and comfortable work environments, worker initiative and on the job training, adaptation to work/corporate culture, worker temperament – ability to work under stress to meet deadlines, compatibility with other workers, punctuality and voluntarism.
These require on-hand observation that the government is not equipped to follow and has no business placing observers on the job site – except in exceptional circumstances where the health and safety of the employee are at risk and the employer has blatantly taken no corrective measures.
Employers and unions are the sole permanent observers at the workplace and therefore the only competent entities to participate in negotiations with regard to promotions and worker competence.
Government enters as a neutral party if called upon to mediate in a deadlock or may intervene in cases of national security concerns or emergencies – for example, Air Traffic Controllers strike at MBIA, that may completely shut down the airport and disrupt air travel internationally and regionally.
An important duty of Government is to legislate for the protection of the worker applying strict adherence to Constitution and Law. Regulations against: Monopolies, Union Busting, Worker Intimidation and Unfair Termination are measures enshrined in law guarding the worker against “artificially low monopolistic wages” and collusion among employers – negating the need for stratified minimum wages.
The government’s consultation process on minimum wages recommends stratified categories amounting to thirty (30) different minimum wages levels.
The metric used to determine those levels is at the very best phantom, unexplainable and arbitrary – unlike the ebb and flow of the self-correcting labour market.
Of critical import to the worker are:: the number of hours that constitute a work day including a lunch break; when and under what circumstances should over time (time and a half, double time, triple time) be applied and when pay is legally due?
Workers particularly in the construction industry are at the mercy of contractors. Complaints of wage payments weeks or months late are not uncommon – notoriously late payments.
Minimum wages as proposed, without on time payment legislation with “teeth” to meet the immediate needs of poor families who have no disposable income and must depend on payments upon completion of work to cover daily expenses, are fruitless. Not having a bus fare may mean missing work compounding the worker’s plight.
Government’s proposed thirty 30 Minimum wages adjusted every three 3 years to keep pace with inflation and the Consumer price index (CPI ) will necessitate administrative changes at a cost that may be more productively spent directly on the needs of the poorest of the poor.
The number of seemingly confused high officials involved in public consultations and the apparent cost to the taxpayer is not encouraging and does not inspire confidence that the final product will be satisfactory to a majority of the wider public.
At this point, from the tone of the consultations, the government seems to be galloping from a stable with a cart without a horse – racing to be the “JERK” on both sides.