The National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) has placed on record their appreciation for the appointment of the tripartite Minimum Wage Task Force that is charged with formulating a plan for the gradual implementation of the five-dollar minimum wage.
NTUCB's President Luke Martinez, who also sits on the newly appointed task force, told the Reporter that not only does the union appreciate the efforts made by the Briceño Administration to increase the wages of Belizeans, but that they are also satisfied with the way that it is being carried out by way of a tripartite means, inclusive of representatives from all the major sectors that will be affected as opposed to making it a political circus.
“We are glad that the government realizes that at some point we have to see how we can invest in our people and see how we can maintain the middle class who are the key factors in ensuring that our economy circulates. The NTUCB is all about what is going to benefit the workers in this country and we have to look at the fact that the last minimum wage increase was in 2012. Right now our minimum wage is at $3.30 an hour and when you look at the SIB statistic about 52% of our population is living in poverty. That is just over two hundred thousand people living in poverty.”
Martinez told us that the task force met on Wednesday of this week as an introductory session to discuss their terms of reference and formulate a plan for moving forward. While Martinez could not provide us with a timeframe to suggest when the groundwork will be completed, he indicated that it will encompass some “serious research” and “political will” as well as the dedication of the various stakeholders to get it done.
“Well, the process has started, and from the NTUCB's standpoint once we have started something we always want to finish. We strive on being committed and we intend to play our role in this process until the end. Hopefully, Belizeans will look at it from a nationalistic perspective and that is why I said that we note that the Government is taking a tripartite approach and not a political one. At least so far and so we are certain that it will work,” Martinez explained.
Earlier this week the Government of Belize had issued a press release indicating that Cabinet had requested The Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labour, and Local Government to appoint a task force that will develop a plan to increase the minimum wage from $3.30 an hour to $5.00. According to the release, the Briceño administration noted that after 10 years, there is a need for the reassessment of the minimum wage.
The Government said that in recognizing the implications that an increase in wages would have on the various sectors, input from them is vital to assess the short, medium, and long-term effects that it could present. They also noted that the increase would have to be linked to productivity growth and the country's competitiveness.