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Baptiste: We need all hands on deck!

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The Minister responsible for Labour is also concerned that the new wages order could lead to unemployment as some businesses lean towards cost cutting measures to deal with the overall increasing cost of doing business.{{more}}

Minister René Baptiste told SEARCHLIGHT that she would be less than honest if she didn’t admit that the concern about job loses didn’t factor into the thought process as the new wages order was being put in place.

On the heels of Baptiste’s announcement of the new minimum wages that are set to take effect from July 1, leaders of business organizations expressed their concern to SEARCHLIGHT about employees’ job security.

We spoke to the leaders of the Chamber of Commerce, the Small Businesses Association and the Hotel Association and the general consensus was that while workers undeniably needed an increase in their wages, some struggling businesses may be forced to make drastic measures if they are to comply with the new order, and survive.

“The cost of doing business is going up, and the fact the wages are going up, some people are seriously looking at their operating cost,” said Jerry George, President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

“The thing is employees have to buy food, pay bills, they have children to go to school, but right now it is tough for a business to give salary increases, even though the workers deserve it,” said Bianca Porter of the Hotel Association.

But Minister Baptiste was quick to encourage businesses to push for higher productivity and not to consider staff cutting as a first resort.

She shared the view of Small Businesses Association president Marlon Stevenson, who lamented that while employers are being mandated to increase minimum wages, employees continue to cheat their employers out of a fair day’s pay.

“Too much mediocrity is accepted as normal instead of striving for excellence,” Minister Baptiste said, adding that it is understandable that employers will have to be more serious and demand quality work for the money they are putting out.

“I have seen people who sit at their desks and you wonder at the end of the day what they were doing,” she said.

She chided employees who use their employers’ time for leisure, and at times, come up with dubious sicknesses to escape work.

“People are not paying enough detail to their work,” she said.

Minister Baptiste said employees must remember that it is their productivity that will bring prosperity to the businesses, which will in turn ensure that they are employed.

“We need all hands on deck.”

She told SEARCHLIGHT that the topic of productivity is being discussed by the National Labour Congress.

Minister Baptiste however warned employers not to be unfair to their employees; watching them with jaundiced eyes with the view of finding a reason to dismiss them, so as to try and cheat them out of severance.

She said that if laying off an employee is absolutely necessary, employers need to be straight up with the employee, and honour their service to the establishment by paying the prescribed severance.

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