President of the San Fernando Business Association Daphne Bartlette sees Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s move to increase the minimum wage of 194,000 employees from $15 to $17.50 an hour as a masterstroke by the Government to capture votes in the upcoming local government elections.
In delivering his 2019/2020 fiscal package on Monday, Imbert announced the $2.50 an hour pay hike beginning from December 1 for low-income earners.
The new measure will see the daily salary of a minimum wage earner jumping from $120 to $140.
In welcoming the higher pay packet for these workers, Bartlette said: “We have to give him (Imbert) a tick because he was very wise in increasing the minimum wage in the beginning of December when local government election is likely to be held.”
Bartlette said the move was a masterstroke by Imbert to entice workers to vote for the Government at the expense of the business community.
“It’s the business community who have to make that payment for him. He knows what he did. It is a political ploy because why didn’t you do it last year? Why you didn’t do it when they closed down Petrotrin’s refinery? It was a masterstroke by the Government and he (Imbert) grinned his teeth.”
On the flip side, Bartlette said barbers, hairdressers, nail technicians and owners of small supermarkets are the one likely to will feel the pinch of such an initiattive, as they would not be able to afford the pay hike since business activity has been generally slow due to the closure of Petrotrin’s refinery last year.
“Now they (micro businesses) might have to lay off workers. On one hand, it is a plus and on the other, it is a negative.”
President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association Gregory Aboud said no one should quarrel with anyone who tries to assist those with lesser means.
“In the case of the $17.50 an hour, the majority of businesses have been paying beyond that rate to attract good help.”
Aboud said where the increase would be of great assistance “is in entry-level jobs which would assist in boosting family income where more than one person is contributing to the expense of the household.”
President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce Vishnu Charran said it was no hidden secret that many businesses have been paying upward of $17.50 an hour.
“For those who pay the $15 an hour they would now see an increase in their overall wage bill. I believe it is going to affect them in some way because the economy is still depressed. There has not been an increase in economic activity in the country especially in the retail sector.”
Charran said small business owners may be affected somewhat with the increase”depending on the number of people they employ.”
In going forward, Charran said business owners would now have to manage their costs and increase workers’ production to achieve business growth.
Generally, Charran said he was satisfied with workers taking home higher salaries.
PRO of the San Juan Business Association Abraham Ali embraced the pay hike.
“I welcome the move. I think the increase should have gone to $20 per hour, given the high cost of living,” Ali said.
Underpaying an employee, Ali said brings discontentment and poor performance.
“Some people prefer to stay at home than to come out and work for $150 a day. Day-to-day expenses does not allow anyone who makes less than $200 a day to survive.”
Ali said the entire budget was designed to attract grass root people to support the Government for the local government election.
“It is a nice budget but no specifics as to how they are going to roll out these new initiatives.”
Surindra Maharaj, president of the Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry and Commerce said an employer would now have to fork out an additional $400 a month for each minimum wage worker.
“The increase is not bad when you compare it to international standards. It should not affect the employer too much. I don’t foresee workers going home. “
He said employers have to keep their workforce happy with better wages.
“I personally think the increase is long overdue.”