Antigua Minimum wage implementation sparks controversy

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has criticized the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce, Yves R. Ephraim, over statements made regarding the timing and implementation of the new minimum wage.

“Yves Ephraim served on the minimum wage committee, representing the Chamber of Commerce: he agreed and recommended EC$9.00 minimum wage to the Cabinet for adoption, to be implemented on January 1, 2023,” Browne said, adding that the effective implementation date was announced over a month ago.

In a statement last week, Ephraim said the private sector had been informed that the minister responsible for labor had ordered a minimum basic wage of nine dollars per hour for employment in Antigua and Barbuda, effective January 1.

“The Chamber wishes to voice its utmost displeasure with the timing and manner with which the “minister responsible” has issued such notice,” he said, adding that among the concerns of the private sector is that “the minister responsible has created unnecessary angst for many affected businesses by issuing the notice on the day before pay day 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 chamber president said, adding that 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”.

“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,” Yves R. Ephraim added.

He said further that the minister responsible should be aware that the effect of this increase in the minimum wage, represents a 9.75 percent increase in payroll cost for certain affected and struggling businesses whose payroll cost are already as high as 80 percent of income prior to this increase.

Prime Minister Browne however says the chamber president is trying to create disruptions “I am appalled that having participated and agreed to the nine dollar minimum wage, that the chamber president and its members are now seeking to undermine the process and to encourage discontent,” Browne said, adding that the “simple solution to the late processing of the minimum wage order is to pay the staff retroactively the paltry EC$16, per employee for the month of January”.

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