Wifol wants living wage introduced

POSTED: 12/3/14 8:11 PM

St. Maarten —The introduction of a local living wage is one of the goals that the newly elected board of the Wifol union hopes to introduce in 2015 through dialogue with its social partners, according to union president Theophilus Thompson.

“We would like to end poverty all over the island and one of the things that must be done to achieve this is the introduction of a living wage. The island already has a minimum wage which states what the lowest amount an employer can pay an employee is, but that is not the same as a living wage,” Thompson explained. Thompson said that while the union acknowledges that a minimum wage is necessary in any island to protect workers, the minimum wage will not take persons out of poverty. “Having a living wage is better and in the interest of eradicating poverty. The ILO convention advocates establishing a decent wage which basically means someone makes enough to keep their family out of poverty and to enjoy a decent standard of living.” The union head explained that unlike a minimum wage a living wage is not established by government but is done through dialogue and an achieved consensus by all social partners.

“Establishing a living wage may include things like a deep reduction in utility bills, placing more price controls on basic items to make them more easily affordable to everyone, thereby increasing a persons’ spending power. It may also include higher take home pays,” Thompson explained. He added that as a social partner, Wifol is very aware that employers also deserve value for their money and decent work also covers employees executing their duties to the best of their ability and completing assigned tasks on time.

“There are many hard working employees out there and as unions we are always proud when our members excel at their place of employment. A good employee takes initiative and is innovative and we as a union will address this issue with employees who do not fulfill their part of an employment agreement. Locally there seems to be a growing trend of employers using employment agencies to fill their staffing needs to avoid having permanent employees. That’s a trend we shall fight to stop because it s unfair to the employees.

“The employees have a right to job security and to permanent positions that allows them to meet their commitments. As a labour union, we believe the employee is the weaker vessel so we will always champion the interest of the employees,” Thompson said.

That being said, he acknowledged that the union is aware that in some cases employers are reluctant to take on full time employees because of their experiences with employees who are unproductive and in some cases uncooperative once they have been made into permanent members of staff. He believes that this type of behavior is not just unfair to their employers but also to their fellow employees and helps to perpetuate employers fears about taking on full time employees.

Thompson noted that in some cases this argument is also used by unscrupulous employers to justify victimizing employees through the use of short term labour contracts and that’s one of the issues the union plans to tackle in 2015 while lobbying for the introduction of a living wage.

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