By Orville Williams
The country’s national minimum wage – which has remained at $8.20 per hour since 2015 – could be increased before the end of this year.
A Minimum Wage Advisory Committee was recently established to discuss the possibility of an increase, amid rising living costs due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and, more recently, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Those talks got underway two months ago and interim Cabinet spokesperson, Social Transformation Minister Dean Jonas, told yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing that while it may seem things are moving slowly, it is a delicate process.
He also reaffirmed the government’s intention to increase the figure and revealed that an announcement could come before the end of the year.
“The Cabinet did deliberate on [the minimum wage] and there is a decision that we do have to enhance the minimum wage in Antigua and Barbuda.
“The committee is doing its work [and] it has to then report back to the Cabinet, because it is really not just a government decision only. The government employs – I believe – the majority of persons, but the minimum wage affects the entire country, all employers. Therefore, we have to get feedback [and] we have to consult with unions, so that work is going on.
“We expect that, before the end of the year, we will be able to come back and report on this. But yes, the government is seriously considering raising the minimum wage,” Jonas said.
The current minimum wage has been in effect for eight years and prior to that, the figure stood at $7.50, similarly for eight years.
Both public and private workers, along with the labour unions, have been calling for another increase, referring to rising costs over the past couple of years.
They are among the entities and individuals being engaged by the committee – which comprises members from the Employers Federation, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Hotels and Tourism Association, among others – for feedback.
Previously, Labour Minister Steadroy Benjamin hinted that the minimum wage structure could be adjusted to cater for different categories of workers, rather than maintaining one figure across the board.
The minimum wage issue was scheduled to be addressed by officers and executive members of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) during a public meeting yesterday evening.