Saint Lucia
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ILO Scientific Standards to Determine ‘Livable Wage’ Structure

Labour Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte
Labour Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte

Labour Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte disclosed that the committee set up by the government to undertake the proposed ‘Livable Wage’ mechanism has submitted a report to the government, though it is not the final regulatory document. 

Differentiating the two factors, Dr. Albert-Poyotte explained that the minimum wage considers the minimum wage that an employer pays out to their workers, dependent on the category of work. However, she said, “This may not be enough for somebody to survive” though it may be the standard payment.

The minister noted that the Livable Wage is geared “to augment” the minimum wage depending on the circumstances.

“The committee has submitted its findings to Cabinet, and we are deliberating on it and they are also waiting for them to go out in the public domain … (to) be able to discuss it,” said Albert-Poyotte.

The former trade unionist states that the Livable Wage proposal bears “serious financial implications” for the government and the private sector.  Albert-Poyotte added: “It is one where once you up the wage, it means everything else will go up and even the cost of living will go up.

“However, it is not a flat rate across the board. It is a wage based on sectors …and different categories of workers will have different wage levels, which will be worked out by an hourly rate.”

The minister said there have been complaints from persons employed in the service industries “that the wages they take home are just not capable of supporting them. And those working in the hotel sector, the supermarkets, and in the Dry Goods stores … what they take home at the end of the month is not something that can help them survive.”

Albert-Poyotte notes that the Livable Wage ratio intends to determine that employees are being paid the “right rate”. She said the Livable Wage Bill will also have serious financial implications for the government as well, since some government employees may also fall below the minimum wage level.

The minister said this is a timely intervention, as the authorities are currently embarking on negotiations with the public sector workers, and “if all that comes through at the time that government is willing to look at the salaries for public sector workers, then we can do the same for everyone across the country.”

Nonetheless, says Albert-Poyotte, should the Livable Wage Bill come into effect, the government would have to monitor the upscale in the prices of goods since the wage increase does not give retailers the right to ‘jack up’ the price of commodities on the supermarket shelves.

“The Livable Wage is not something that we came up with ‘out of the blue’ for Saint Lucia; it is compared with what happens regionally and how they arrive at their minimum wage in the different islands in the Caribbean,” the minister asserted.

Reflecting on her stewardship with trade unions over the decades, she said this proposal is a “positive move”.

Furthermore, in keeping in tune with International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, Albert-Poyotte explained, “The committee went through a very scientific way of arriving at a minimum wage and they used the ILO standards to arrive at what should be a minimum wage standard for someone living in Saint Lucia.”