THA administrator tells employers: Respect workers' rights

Melissa James-Guy, administrator in the Office of the Chief Secretary. - Photo courtesy Melissa James-Guy's LinkedIn profile
Melissa James-Guy, administrator in the Office of the Chief Secretary. - Photo courtesy Melissa James-Guy's LinkedIn profile

A Tobago House of Assembly (THA) administrator has called on employers to respect the rights of employees by paying wages that are in line with their responsibilities.

Melissa James-Guy, who was assigned recently to the Office of the Chief Secretary (OCS), said on multiple occasions, she has had to assist workers who ran the risk of being exploited owing to ignorance of their rights and protections.

“As decent human beings, we must be cognisant of the fact that societies are judged on how we protect the most vulnerable,” she said.

James-Guy was addressing stakeholders at a minimum-wage workshop at the Hampden/Lowlands Multipurpose Facility, Tobago, on May 21.

The event was hosted by the Department of Labour, OCS, and the National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago (NIBTT). The Department of Labour was closed to facilitate the workshop.

In the government’s budget presentation on October 2, 2023, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced a 17 per cent increase in the minimum wage – from $17.50 to $20.50 – with effect from January 1, 2024.

The move was intended to improve the economic circumstances of those on the lower rungs of the income ladder.

Referring to the UN sustainable development goals, which speak to the promotion of decent work for all, James-Guy said, “While the new minimum-wage legislation aids in steering us as a responsible society to achieving (UNSGD) goal eight, in part, allow me the liberty to issue a call of action to employers to respect the rights of workers, notwithstanding the minimum wage legislation.

“We, as employers, have a moral obligation to pay workers a wage that is fair and just. That may even mean paying more than the minimum wage.”

She added some workers may even deserve more than the minimum wage.

“If we truly wish to demonstrate the markings of a responsible, responsive and, might I add, progressive society, the conversation may very soon have to shift from the concept of a minimum wage to that of a living wage, as the minimum wage may still be deficient in allowing for individuals or families to meet their very basic needs.”

James-Guy, who regarded the workshop as timely, said given the high cost of living in Tobago, consideration should be given to implementing a higher minimum wage there to ensure equity with Trinidad.

“I have given you much to consider.”

She said while there is no available statistical data to measure the proportion of the labour force in Tobago earning under the minimum wage, “Anecdotal evidence suggests that this figure may be low and may be more applicable in the informal labour sector, especially among undocumented workers, migrants.”

James-Guy said the minimum wage was conceptualised to offer support to low-income households which may be subject to the vagaries of changes in the cost of living.

“This is important, given inflation and the rising cost of living.”

NIBTT public relations officer Radesh Bassant also spoke, as did director, Manpower and Labour Relations, Department of Labour, Elon Mayo; and Labour Ministry representatives Farouk Mohammed, chief labour inspector specialist, and corporate communications officer Jodi Dolabaille.


"THA administrator tells employers: Respect workers’ rights"

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