About Labour Day & National Minimum Wage

Readers Speak/Opinion

A Restful Labour Day

I hope readers of Mauritius Times had a restful Labour Day last Tuesday. However if one them had been to any rally, I hope they had some speeches to enjoy.

Since I retired, I have been to only one held by one of those erstwhile ‘contestataires’ chaps; and that’s because I was led to believe that he was a great orator.

Instead I found a crude man making crude jokes at the expense of friends-cum-political foes. Not only that, but he also said he had those sizzling files incriminating several of them. Yet up to now, all of Mauritius is still waiting for him to take even one of them to court! 

No sir, we sadly no longer have politicians who possess the art of oration of the calibre of chacha sookdeo or the young Gaëtan. So instead they harangue the audience and the latter are so enamoured by them that they applaud being called stupid. 

Oye-vey, as my jewish friend would say!

Quatre Bornes

* * *

The National Minimum Wage

The International Labour Office (ILO) defines minimum wage as “the minimum sum payable to a worker for work performed or services rendered, within a given period, whether calculated on the basis of time or output, which may not be reduced either by individual or collective agreement, which is guaranteed by law and which may be fixed in such a way as to cover the minimum needs of the worker and his or her family, in the light of national economic and social conditions”.

The government has marked the year 2018 on the industrial front by setting the quantum (though in a complicated way) of the National Minimum Wage following submission of the report of the National Wage Consultative Council which spared no effort to go by the book generally adopted for such exercises (re: ILO – Minimum Wage Systems). It is certain that the unions which have been instrumental in bringing about this decree are going to keep an eye on the implementation and ascertain that workers are paid as per the regulations.

There is no bargaining or negotiation on the minimum wage rates. These are generally not subject to abatement by individual agreement nor by collective agreement. Bargaining, if any, would be around payment by results/performance/ productivity, piece rate system, years of service, seniority, skills and qualifications and overtime payment. However, there are cases where wage supplements (lodging and food) are included in the minimum wage.

The profitability of enterprises is intimately associated with productivity and labour costs. Whenever there is a substantial change in the pay there is absolute need to closely monitor the productivity so as to contain the cost of production and maintain competitiveness. The adoption of technology to boost production capacity, reduce overheads, cut back on the number of workers on the roll and not replacing any worker who vacates office are methods that contribute to containing costs and increasing productivity. On the other hand it is advocated that, with the wage hike, there is motivation and satisfaction of the workers, reduction in labour turnover, ease of recruitment of skilled, experienced and trained workers, change in the attitude of workers and likelihood of productivity gains. In some countries minimum wage is not applicable indiscriminately to all sectors of the economy. Certain sectors are spared.

There is no doubt that the minimum wage will help to combat poverty and reduce income inequalities. It will also be instrumental in satisfying the basic reasonable human needs and undoubtedly assist the progressive raising of the standard of living of all workers, ensuring a better life for the children and affording petty pleasures and conveniences which were a dream.

According to the National Wage Consultative Council Act, any problem of relativity distortion that may arise with the introduction of the minimum wage needs be addressed and that’s what the unions are calling for. This will be another big story: where to start and where to finish with the adjustment. In parallel, is there a need to revise the salary of the CEO with the introduction of the National Minimum Wage?

The right thing has been done but did we do it right?

Mohun Aujayeb


* Published in print edition on 4 May 2018

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