Rayburn Blackmore
Rayburn Blackmore

The last time there was a general review of the minimum wage here in Dominica many of the things we have grown used to did not even exist; heck, the cost of living wasn't as nearly what it is today.

Therefore, it is no surprise that many have welcomed the news by Minister of National Security and Home Affairs Rayburn Blackmore of the Government's decision to increase the minimum wage effective September 1, 2021.

In making the announcement, the minister himself highlighted that this long-overdue minimum wage review was undertaken to ensure that the economic realities of the present-day situation were adequately captured.

He noted that the minimum wage is set per category and seeks to cover the most vulnerable categories of workers.

"The last minimum wage review was undertaken in 2007, which resulted in the passing of an order which covered a specific number of categories, namely agricultural workers, skilled workers, domestic workers, clerks, receptionists, salespersons, and cashiers," Blackmore said.

As of the first, agricultural workers and labourers in the agricultural sector rates will increase from $4.00 to $7.50 per hour as well as daily paid workers, and tourism workers.

As for juveniles and trainees, their hourly rate will rise from $3.60 to $5.67 per hour, while cashiers, receptionists, and salesperson's hourly rates will be increased from $5.50 to $7.25 per hour and shop assistances from $4.50 per hour to $6.75.

Blackmore further pointed out that home assistance with meals will be increased from $125 per week to $200 per week, while home assistance without meals will be $250 as opposed to $143.75 per week and live-in home assistance from $142.50 per week to $220 per week.

The new Minimum Wage Order will encompass the already existing categories of workers covered by the 2008 Order, he said, and will be extended to include new categories such as bartenders, servers, room attendants, groundsmen, public area assistances whose hourly wages will all be increased to $7.24.

As for vehicle drivers, messengers, unskilled workers such as labourers in the construction industry, and handymen, their new rate will be $7.50, while the lowest a cook can be paid will be $7.25 and security guards no less than $8.00 per hour.

"This minimum wage review may be seen as the first step of an annual or bilateral review undertaken to refine the minimum wage and to monitor the effects of the new minimum wage on the relevant parties. It is important to note also, that the minimum wage as outlined in the Minimum Wage Order is not the actual wage. But it is the lowest amount employers can pay employees for the category of work mentioned in the Order," the home affairs minister stressed.

In response, General Secretary of the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU) Thomas Letang who was part of a tripartite committee appointed in 2019 to review the minimum wage and make recommendations to the government, stated that while not all of their recommendations were adopted, he is pleased that some progress is being made.

One of those recommendations was a different rate for certified and uncertified workers.

"Still we are very happy that we have moved from where we were many years ago to now seeing an increase in salaries, that's good news for us," he said to the Sun.

The union leader further noted that while the members of the committee, which consisted of representatives of the private sector, the government, and the unions, hoped for a greater increase, several factors had to be taken into consideration.

"We have to pay attention to the state of the economy, and what effect the increase would have on our local companies who many at the moment are still trying to cope with the effects of the pandemic," Letang stated. "If the minimum wage is too high then that can force them to close business and this is a situation we don't want."

Another key recommendation he's hoping that the government doesn't neglect is the need for the review to be conducted every two to three years.