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Is my employer violating minimun wage laws of SVG?

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Question

I am selling in a store located on Middle Street in Kingstown. My foreign employer has me working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. My understanding is that the Minimum wage in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is $20 per day but the man pays me only $100 per week. Is my employer violating the Minimum Wage laws of the country? {{more}}

Answer

Careful analysis of your issue reveals that the Wages Regulations 2003 are being violated; not simply because you are getting less than twenty dollars per day but for reasons we will discuss. Do not be misled to think that the violation is simply because your employer is foreign. There are many expatriates who are law abiding and decent as is the case with the vast majority of those of us who were born here. There are a number of recent migrants who have very little regard for some of our laws though, as do a minority of our own people. Sometimes the violations by the latter group are worse.

The Wages Council Act and the Wages Regulations.

The Wages Council Act, Chapter 155 in the 1990 Revised Edition of the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines confer powers on the Governor General to fix remuneration and holidays for either workers generally or for particular work. This power is usually operationalised by the fixing of a minimum wage (not the exact wage as some persons interpret the minimum wage) but a benchmark below which wages should not fall.

Workers and employers must always be clear that the wages set out in the regulations are the lowest legally possible and if the circumstances dictate, more can and should be paid.

If the order of the Governor General fixes the remuneration generally, usually an hourly rate across all sectors and regions, we have a national minimum wage. St Vincent and the Grenadines has Sectoral Minimum Wages, that is, minimum wages were prescribed for particular work. The currently used set of regulations took effect from May 1, 2003 and these regulations cover the following seven (7) sectors or categories of workers: (1) Agricultural Workers; (2) Domestic Workers; (3) Hotel Workers; (4) Industrial Workers; (5) Security Workers; (6) Workers in the Office of Professionals; and (7) Shop Assistants.

We will discuss some of the provisions of the WAGES REGULATIONS (SHOP ASSISTANTS) ORDER, 2003 since judging from the details given in the question, your terms and condition are governed by this order. We will pay attention to hours of work, minimum wages and overtime. Let us state the exact provisions of the Regulations in this regard; then we can discuss some of the specifics of the case presented.

The Regulations define a ‘week’ (for persons employed in shops) to mean-

(a) in the case of a watchman, a period of six days.

(b) In the case of other categories of workers, a period of time beginning on Monday morning and ending on Saturday at noon.

Minimum wages

Overtime wages

Overtime wages become payable to any person employed in or about a shop under the following circumstances. When he/she is required to work-

(1) on a public holiday;

(2) for a period in excess of eight (8) hours in any given day; and

(3) for a period in excess of forty-four (44) hours in any given week.

Note that all employees in shops are entitled to an hour for lunch that must be counted as part of the eight-hour-day.

Overtime wages are calculated as follows:

Twice the hourly equivalent of the wages normally paid to the person who worked on a public holiday; and

One and one half times the hourly equivalent of the wages normally paid to the person for a period of work done that is in excess of eight hours in any given day.

The Case

We take it that the worker as a Sales Clerk should be earning no less than $100 per week for the normal workweek. However, there is some over time involved here. There is one (1) hour overtime each day, Monday to Friday and two hours on Saturdays. (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. makes it nine (9) hours as against eight (8) provided for and the period noon to 2 p.m. is outside the workweek defined by the regulations and must be considered overtime at all times). The periods of overtime work each week under normal circumstances add up to seven hours.

The normal hourly rate is $2.27 ($100 for 44 hours), making it $3.41 per hour overtime. The employee should be receiving $23.87 overtime payment on a weekly basis under normal circumstances.

You can try discussing the matter with the employer to get him/her to make amends or you may seek the assistance of the Department of Labour to get your justice.

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