Business Senator talks about the upcoming minimum wage increase
Come 2023, the minimum wage will increase to 5 dollars per hour. It’s a promise that the Briceño Government is sure that they will fulfill and workers have welcomed this news. However, this means that companies will have to pay their workers more and that’s why the Belize Chamber of Commerce has insisted that a phased-in approach would be better. Senator for the business community, Kevin Herrera spoke to Love News about the incoming policy, explaining that everyone involved needs to be listened to.
Kevin Herrera, Senator for Business Sector: “It’s important to listen to the persons who will be affected. I know that the Belize Business Bureau feels that you know an immediate approach and immediate intervention is the way to go and I think the Chamber’s position some companies could be adversely affected and that perhaps a more measured approach should be taken with respect to implementation. Remember it’s like a 50/51% increase in terms of the minimum wage and while many companies will not be affected with that specific aspect of it there may be pressures on others that for those who were around the five dollar mark well employees may say hey we need ot be bumped up because we’re now working at the legal minimum wage and so I think those are issues that have to be considered as we’re going through the process. To answer your question specifically I think government has a responsibility to ensure that they’re looking at it across the board and that they take all the views on board with respect to implementation. I know that the Prime Minister stated that it will be implemented in January but again you know there are companies that may be significantly adversely affected and I think that they should be listened to.”
And while many will agree that the minimum wage should increase given that basic items have gotten more expensive, Senator Herrera added that the performance of the wider economy should be considered.
Kevin Herrera, Senator for Business Sector: “I think we have to put it in context. Remember we’re talking about minimum wage almost in isolation or wages almost in isolation. But inalienable to wages is revenues and even if you increase wages it doesn’t necessarily mean that revenues will automatically increase. I mean in fact on the contrary I mean unless there is additional customers or new product or that type of thing it’s highly unlikely that revenues will be increased at pace with wages with respect to that so I know that the chamber has suggested a formula that’s linked to some specific things within some economic indicators that should be included in the calculation and so I think we have to take a very measured approach when you’re looking at that type of thing because like I said companies can be affected and the worst thing I think you want to happen in this process is that we have less employment as opposed to more and better employment.”
Senator Herrera says that an increase to five dollars, in principle, is a reasonable position to take but insists that implementation of the policy must be a well-thought out process.
Kevin Herrera, Senator for Business Sector: “I think we’ll all agree that the five dollars minimum wage is something that is very reasonable with respect to what workers deserve. You don’t hear much opposition to that aspect of it. It’s basically in the implementation and with respect to the implementation and that it doesn’t have an effect that you wouldn’t want. And so while I think that there are certain sectors that certainly can handle it I think there are some very vulnerable sectors as well and so it’s a little difficult to generalise it and so it comes back to the point I made a little earlier. You know it has to be done carefully where you take all the sectors involved and perhaps even separating them out to a certain extent or to at least look at them individually just to ensure you really wouldn’t want to take anybody out of business because of something that you’re doing that is something positive. I mean like I said there are not many people who are arguing that a five dollar wage rate is unreasonable. I think it’s just you now how it’s being implemented.”