The Secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH, Spanish initials), Carlos J. Rivera Santiago, was in favor of increasing the current minimum wage of $ 7.25 per hour, which has not been changed in 12 years, but analysis and study confirmed this are necessary to avoid job losses.
“What I’ve always mentioned is that the minimum wage is just part of the things that need to be done to get people into the labor market, because in 2009 – when the minimum wage was raised – we had a 40 percent participation rate that is the same as now, “said the officer.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi created an advisory committee on May 1 to assess the minimum wage increase, but the advisors have not yet had their first meeting, Rivera Santiago confirmed in response to questions from the WEEKLY JOURNAL. Interior Minister Noelia García Bardales chairs the advisory committee. and is composed of members from the public and private sectors, including the Labor Secretary.
Rivera pointed out that there is a need to study the tax aspect and find strategies so that people on welfare do not lose them when they enter the world of work.
“I understand the committee was created, but there hasn’t been an initial formal meeting. Anyway, I’m on a different building salaries committee; besides, I think the salary has to happen, but again this is a single ingredient and it alone won’t solve the matter, “he explained.
Last week the House of Representatives and the Senate joined forces to pass the legislative move to raise the minimum wage and start discussions on the possibility of it increasing to $ 8.50 an hour, a $ 1.25 increase corresponds to. MEP Héctor Ferrer and Senator Juan Zaragoza, both from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and independent Senator José Vargas Vidot are leading the preparation of this law.
The Labor Secretary said he had “seen no analysis or study” to raise the minimum wage to $ 8.50 an hour.
“I’ve always mentioned that I don’t have any problems [raising it to] $ 9.00 or $ 8.00 or whatever is set, but I think the number should be guided by study and analysis because if I raise the salary to $ 8.50, for example, I want to know what possible industries I can deal with this raise. If we know the negative effects of this surge, we can put in place a mitigation plan so that the employer can pay the cost and not close, ”he said.
The official declined to make a recommendation on how the ideal amount should be based on Puerto Rico’s economic context.
“I could use a number because it sounds good when you play the lottery, but it can’t be. This has to be done through a study to look at the different numbers responsibly and see what effect that number can have. So based on that, we can make a plan so that this surge doesn’t lead to unemployment or layoffs, “he said.
Recognizing that the restaurant and agricultural sectors have indicated that it may not be time to raise salaries, Rivera Santiago stated, “This could be looked into.”
“There are other jurisdictions that raise the minimum wage and exempt certain sectors. These are alternatives that can be seen. In the agricultural sector, it can be seen that there are not many interested people and that we have to see how we deal with it,” he said. “It’s different for restaurants because depending on whether you’re a waiter – we know the minimum wage is very low, but the tips are good – sometimes they make more tips than their salaries. You have to look at it by industry . “
There are two proposals in the Legislative Assembly: House Bill 338 (PC338), which proposes the creation of a commission to analyze and establish a process to increase the minimum wage; and Senate Bill 182 (PS182) seeking to raise the minimum wage to $ 8.50 and reinstating the DTRH-attached minimum wage review panel. Ferrer, Zaragoza and Vargas Vidot expect to modify PC338 to include content from PS182. However, that management is in the hands of the Senate Finance Committee.
Rivera Santiago has expanded the ability to restore the minimum wage evaluation committee.
“The problem with the evaluation panel is that at one point they made so many exceptions per industry that it was no longer manageable and there were differences. I’m not saying the number is bad, but that’s exactly what happened in the past happened and that’s why the change took place, “he explained.
According to this medium, three raise studies have been conducted on the island in the past six years. The latest study, carried out by Inteligencia Económica, concluded that an increase in the minimum wage would mainly affect the accommodation sector, educational services and nutrition.