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Discussions surrounding a national minimum wage were brought to the fore during a live television discussion with Minister within the Ministry of Finance Dr. Ubaldus Raymond on Wednesday evening.
Dr. Raymond was a guest on News Maker Live, when he was asked by one caller whether he thinks that the time has come for the new government to work towards implementing that initiative.
But the minister was quick to respond, downplaying the possible positive impact that it might have for low-income wage earners, and was quick to state some disadvantages of such an initiative instead.
“Do you know if government decides…any government, to implement a minimum wage it might be an issue sticking to the minimum wage? For example, if somebody is currently making $7 dollars an hour and the minimum wage ends up being $6, it may force the employer to go down to the minimum wage,” Dr. Raymond said.
The senator went on to state that the question lies in whether or not it should be left for the market to decide as to what an employer pays their employee (s).
“We believe that each individual should have a wage that they can live by,” he added.
However, another unidentified caller argued that the minister is suggesting that businesses will take advantage of that initiative to lower an employee’s salary, which he said he finds unacceptable.
“It can’t be. You can pay above that but not below that. The employer should not be allowed to do that regardless. A person should be paid commensurate with his experience,” he opined.
Dr. Raymond then jumped in to defend his earlier comments stating that he was referring to a new business, explaining that while some may want to pay workers above the minimum wage, others might be tempted to use the policy to their advantage.
On page 28 of the United Workers Party (UWP) manifesto, it speaks about resuming the initiative to establish a national minimum wage for workers of Saint Lucia, which was being pursued during the party’s last term in office.
A national minimum wage sets the minimum hourly wage rate that is acceptable in law.
The long-term aim of a minimum wage is to remove the problem of poverty pay, which exists when the earnings from paid work do not result in a living wage and fail to push people out of poverty.
For some countries, a high minimum wage can cause price inflation as firms pass on the higher wages in higher prices. It can also lead to falling employment, as demand contracts, and rising unemployment as supply extends. The labour market may also become inflexible in response to changes in the rest of the economy.
But there are also clear advantages, which include, less worker exploitation by the labour market; poverty may be reduced as the low paid gain more income, and the unemployed may be encouraged to join the labour market.
And most importantly, greater equity will be achieved, and the distribution of income between the high paid and the low pay may be narrowed.