Chamber voices utmost displeasure with the timing and manner of announcement on new minimum wage

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Notice of the New National Basic Minimum Wage

It has been brought to the attention of the Chamber that the Labour Department of Antigua and Barbuda has issued a public notice, dated 26th January, 2023, informing that:

“The Minister responsible for Labour has ordered a Minimum Basic Wage of nine dollars ($9.00) per hour for employment in Antigua and Barbuda, effective 1st January, 2023.”

The Chamber wishes to voice its utmost displeasure with the timing and manner with which the “Minister responsible” has issued such notice. Our protest is prompted on the following grounds:

The Minister responsible has created unnecessary angst for many affected businesses by issuing the notice on the day before payday (26th January, 2023) and for simultaneously making the implementation of the Minimum Wage retroactive by setting the effective date as of 1 January, 2023.

Further, the notice comes when most of the affected businesses would have already completed payroll and have already sent paychecks to their employees’ bank accounts.

The Minister responsible, in our opinion acted without regard for how such retroactive implementation on the eve of a payday would have stoked unnecessary tension between employer and employees, by giving the false impression that the affected employers might be deliberately failing to comply with the law.

As was previously mentioned, some affected employers had already processed their payrolls before the Minister’s order was made public.

The Minister responsible exercised a lack of compassion by ignoring the fact that those affected businesses, which were already feeling the negative effects of an underperforming economy were already dealing with the increase of Social Security contributions, starting this January.

One would have thought that the public notice on the 26th of January, 2023 would have announced the introduction of the new Minimum Wage from the 1st of February, 2023. This is what we would expect a caring government to do.

The Minister responsible should be aware that the effect of this increase in the Minimum Wage, represents a 9.75% increase in payroll cost for certain affected and struggling businesses whose payroll cost are already as high as 80% of income prior to this increase.

Further, the effect of compounding this increase with the Social Security increase and the other payroll taxes, has translated this nine dollar ($9.00) Minimum Wage into an actual per hour payment for affected employers.

It is unfortunate that for some of these affected businesses, they will immediately suffer major loses without the opportunity to announce a possible increase in prices for their goods and services or a possible laying off of some staff.

It is very regrettable that this matter could not have been implemented with some degree of care and we hope that this shock would not negatively affect jobs in the affected industries, some examples of which are security firms and gas stations.

We do hope that the Minister responsible would consider the points made and use them to inform the manner and timing of future orders to increase the Minimum Wage.

Yves R. Ephraim

President of the Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce

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