People's Party of Dominica wants wage reform
In a letter to the Honourable Prime Minister dated 16, June 2016, the People's Party of Dominica requested that he address the topic of wage reformation. We also appealed to him, to hastily engage in compensation for the former employees of Caribbean Call Centre (CCC) Ltd, who were subjected to exploitation.
We are aligned to the beliefs of ex-CCC employees, who stated that they were scammed. Indeed, they were scammed out of decent remunerative and secure work environmental practices. We wish to expound on their grievances, particularly where they complained of having to bring their own personal equipment to work and the troubling practice of salary short payment. Their wages demonstrate the predicament facing the average Dominican employee, which is the failure to ensure for above-the-board cost-of-living conditions. Although CCC former workers were paid over the legal minimum wage rate (EC $5.50 per hour – Sales Persons), a harsh reality tugs at the purses and bank accounts, not only of these workers but at all low-end-paid employees. It is a constant struggle to put food on their table and clothes on their backs. The legally mandated, minimum wage has got to rise.
The issue is not inflation, because at 0.7% (CPI measured), this poses no threat to the economy or the financial well being of the worker. In fact, according to World Bank data, the inflation rate from year 2000 till now has been steadily decreasing. Nor the Consumer Price Index (CPI), or the Producer Price Index (PPI), or any other similar economic index prescribes as a bona fide measure, the cost of living against basic food and utility retail prices. If such an indicator existed, the statistics for Dominica would paint a deleterious picture, where compensation at the lower spectrum of the salaried worker, is no more than slave labour. One may even argue that food prices in Dominica are partially immune from text book inflationary factors, because food and utility prices are largely set by wholesale/retailers, and only vary due to competition, or producer glut/scarcity. High import duties also contribute towards high food prices. Attached at the end is a table which unequivocally justifies an increase in the minimum wage. Given such near thralldom and exploitative circumstances, systems of external supports provide a lifeline to a large swath of low-end paid workers. Such external supports include local family and friends' assistance; foreign aid (usually overseas family); secondary/multiple jobs; back-yard farming; and illicit goods trading.
According to a 2014 report which was submitted to then St. Kitts and Nevis Minister of Labour, the Hon. Patrice Nisbett, Dominica had the lowest statutory minimum wage in the OECS, at EC$4.05 per hour. St. Kitts and Nevis had the highest at EC$8.00 per hour. This still remains, despite the fact that Dominica has a higher GDP per capita (IMF, 2015) of US$7,030.00 in comparison to St. Vincent's US$6,882.00. Based on our assessment of the table below and from talking with low-end paid workers, we have derived that the minimum wage should be EC$7.30 (± 0.30) per hour. We arrived at this figure by adjusting the cost of living for a single household wage earner. We removed internet and telephone payments, and decreased utilities to $400.00 per month. We also minimized monthly rent of accommodation and public transportation to $500 and $100 per month respectively. In our opinion, even our recommendation would still render a poverty-stricken life style, with just the basics to get by. The excruciating palpability of bare sustenance would still necessitate systems of external support (as defined above). The effect of a wage rate enactment would gratifyingly impact Agricultural and Other Skilled workers, Labour Standards (Minimum Wage), "Occupation Or Category" Schedule, awarding them with a 90% increase in the hourly rate.
As stated earlier, there is a near zero correlation between rising wages and increasing food prices in Dominica. Yes, the proposed wage bill to the private sector and to government to some extent will be costlier. However, merchants – wholesalers and retailers largely, have realized that by pushing up prices they only risk alienating customers to an already burgeoning, "barrel-import" and back-yard-farming economy. Food and utility prices are stretched to the limit in Dominica, and can only increase uncontrollably by Acts of God, war, systematic risks, these sorts of events. Issues arise, re-the various methods available to government to tackle increasing consumer prices. Among previously mentioned solutions, were the establishment of consumer price ceilings (all commodities) and the creation of a government food bank. While we would like to see the manifestation of both solutions, questions arise as to their distortional impact on market prices. Also, the establishment of government food banks may just crowd-out "Mom-Pop"/street vendors, businesses which are vital for a free-flowing, Dominican market economy.
A healthy, basic hourly wage, even within the upper quartile of OECS states, will speak volumes about the treatment of workers in Dominica. A fallacy exists about external investors in manufacturing and off-shore services seeking the lowest wage regions to set up shop. This was more so in the past. Investors have come to realize that employee quality and productivity, and workplace safety and contentment ensure more profitable and sustainable markets than previously utilized modus operandi. Plus, as we move further into the information and digital age, the education and IT skills of the new factory worker will have risen dramatically to warrant much more than $7.30 per hour.