SVG govt. seeks fourth minimum wage hike

Gonsalves administration eyes $50/day minimum for certain workers, extended maternity leave

KINGSTOWN, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES — The government has hit the ground running with labour force improvements in 2024, with Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves revealing that his administration is already discussing the possibility of another increase in the national minimum wage in the near future.

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves. (Photo: CNW Network)

“I think we're going to see a fairly reasonable jump,” the prime minister said during a radio interview on Sunday.

Gonsalves said the Wages Council initially discussed an increase of 20%.

However, his government will likely opt for a higher percentage because they want to establish a standard that no one will earn under EC$50 a day (approximately USD$18.50), and a higher percentage would be necessary to achieve that goal.

“The recommendation is for a $1,000 minimum for anybody who is working full-time, and $50 a day it would work out to,” he said.

“But if somebody is working part-time, they’re recommending that the one who is working part-time be paid less than $7 an hour…

“So I say, if that is what you're recommending, let us have something which you think is reasonable. Don't just put 20%. The number is higher than that to carry you to a particular point.”

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    Specific workers to be impacted

    jobs in Saint Vincent

    Domestic workers are expected to be impacted. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels)

    Gonsalves specified several categories of workers who would be impacted by the minimum wage increase, such as:

    • Domestic workers
    • Retail workers
    • Kitchen staff, including government and primary schools
    • Cleaners, including in government offices

    He noted, “It’s not going to affect, in my judgement, agricultural workers so much because even though there’s a minimum of $40, if you work in a [certain] situation in agriculture, hardly anybody goes to work for $40.”

    However, he suggested that the government intends to help protect low-wage earners and ensure they do not have to work long hours to sustain middle or upper-class employers without being fairly paid.


    Additional labour improvements

    jobs in Saint Vincent

    Retail workers will also benefit. (Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels)

    Gonsalves also emphasized that the minimum wage is not meant to suggest that employers should pay their employees at that level, but to ensure workers are not paid at any level below that amount.

    Further, his government expects that by increasing the minimum wage, “it means that it will push the real wages above the minimum.”

    At the same time, the prime minister also briefly spoke about considering increasing the length of maternity leave to extend beyond eight weeks.

    This would be the fourth time that the Gonsalves administration has raised the minimum wage since it was elected into office in 2017.

    The government is expected to discuss the proposal more during the ongoing 2024 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly.

    In the interview on Sunday, Gonsalves firmly stated, “This is a labour government…and I'm prepared to defend the improvements in the working conditions and the increase in the minimum wages.”

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