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Monday, September 01 2014 @ 09:55 PM EDT

Business Sector Proposes 15% Minimum Wage Increase

Employment & JobsBy Chris Yee for El Siglo - After long hours of discussion, the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP) proposed an increase to 15% the minimum wage. The increases could range from $ 6.30 to $ 41.50 per month. Business leaders presented numbers that could take effect starting in 2010, however workers are insisting on an increase of almost 100%. The proposal made by CONEP calls for a minimum wage of $650 per month. Antonio Graell, the leader of the National Council of Organized Workers (CONATO), refuted the figures presented by the business sector. For Graell, there is a sufficient basis to pay a minimum wage above $600 dollars per month. "Next week we will gather and analyze the proposal," he said. According to a CONEP press release, the economy is currently experiencing the negative effects of the international financial crisis, which is holding Panama's economy to annual growth of only 2% to 2.5%, which does not favor the workers' proposal. The workers are betting that the Ministry of Labor review and eliminate one of the three areas they currently govern. Currently the best paid workers are in the construction sector where they make a minimum wage of $1.87 per hour, while the lowest paid workers are in the agricultural sector, earning just $1.01 per hour, the same as that paid by small businesses. The tripartite committee met yesterday behind closed doors starting early in the morning, and they did not emerge to discuss the progress they had made until 3:00 pm that afternoon. The committee members agreed to meet again next Wednesday, 2 December 2009, and if they don't reach an agreement then the final decision will be in the hands of the government. The current minimum wage in Panama is $325 per month, one of the highest in Central America, however monthly basic food costs reach $272 per month. CONATO is asking for a minimum wage of $650 per month. (Editor's Comment: These discussions over an increase to the minimum wage have been going on for a few weeks now, and I suspect the government will announce an increase that will take effect on 1 January 2010. The final number will almost certainly be more than what the business leaders are offering, and less than what the union leaders are asking. No matter what, whatever happens will probably be the largest single increase in the minimum wage in recent history. This is another area where Ricardo Martinelli is following through on campaign promises made during the election cycle.)
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