THE new minimum wage of $17.50 per hour took effect from Sunday, said a press advertisement by the Ministry of Finance, titled “New fiscal measures take effect from December 1, 2019.”
The move enacts a promise by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in his 2020 budget presentation to raise the payment from $15.
“This measure will benefit approximately 194,000 persons in the workforce and will take effect from December 1, 2019,” he had told the House of Representatives.
Imbert did not state any allocation for the increase, much of which will be paid by the private sector whose spokesmen, in turn, said it must be accompanied by greater productivity from workers.
Economist Dr Roger Hosein had said, “I agree with the increase in the minimum wage once it comes with some change in productivity."
Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath had dismissed the hike as an election ploy, saying without any increased allocation the wage hike could be offset by employees having fewer hours of work. Imbert dismissed this claim by saying the budget allocation can be supplemented during the fiscal year.
The advertisement listed several other fiscal measures from Budget 2020 taking effect from Sunday. These were a ten per cent increase of the stipend paid to on-the-job (OJT) trainees who are each paid according to the tier they are assessed at based on their qualifications. Imbert announced the OJT enrolment will increase by 3,000 to stand at a total of 8,000 trainees.
The advertisement also promised a 15 per cent rise in wages for URP and CEPEP workers and for CEPEP contractors. When these hikes were initially proposed, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said they would be illegal as URP and CEPEP workers are on minimum wage – so a 15 per cent hike would be less than the 17.5 per cent hike due to the general minimum wage earners.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on Sunday rejected Moonilal's claim and told Newsday CEPEP and URP workers will now earn an hourly wage equal to $17.50 plus an extra 15 per cent of that $17.50.