Lawmakers approve minimum wage bill as governor submits report on timetable for hike
By The Star Staff
As Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia submitted to the Legislature a report prepared by his Minimum Wage Advisory Committee that calls for a minimum wage hike to $10.50 by 2025, the island House of Representatives on Wednesday cut ahead of him in line and approved its own minimum wage hike bill.
The Legislature approved a Conference Committee report on House Bill 338, which would levy minimum wage hikes starting with an increase to $8.50 per hour in January and ending with a $10 per hour minimum wage in October 2023. House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez and Rep. Domingo Torres García said the legislation was the product of a consensus.
“Today we reiterate our commitment to do wage justice to our workers and to guarantee better working conditions for our people,” said Torres García, chairman of the House Labor Affairs Committee. “This is the result of a constant process of dialogue, teamwork and consensus to give way to legislation that will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the country.”
House Bill 338, penned by Popular Democratic Party Rep. Héctor E. Ferrer Santiago, allows the state minimum wage in Puerto Rico to prevail over the federal one for as long as it is higher. Likewise, it creates the Minimum Wage Evaluation Commission, which will be attached to the Department of Labor and Human Resources.
“As of January 1, 2022, the minimum wage will be increased to $8.50 an hour; on October 1, 2022 it will go to $9.00 an hour; and by October 1, 2023, it will be increased to $10.00 an hour. These increases will apply to all workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act of June 25, 1938,” Hernández Montañez said.
Torres García noted that under the bill, the Minimum Wage Evaluation Commission will be an independent entity with expertise that will help promote productivity and competitiveness in the Puerto Rico labor sector. It will comprise seven members, including two workers’ representatives, two business representatives, an economist recommended by University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Department of Economics and the Economists Association, an economist who is also an expert in labor matters recommended by the Institute of Labor Relations at UPR, and a public interest representative.
Meanwhile, Pierluisi proposed tying increases to the minimum wage to the achievement of certain metrics that measure the island’s economic performance.
A first increase to $8.50 per hour would automatically go into effect in January 2022. The hike would not be subjected to any conditions, according to the report.
A second increase to $9.50 per hour would take place in July 2022. However, it would only become effective if the commonwealth’s unemployment rate decreases, the economic activity index increases, and less than 46.8% of the workforce earns $8.50 per hour, the report said. A third increase to $10.50 per hour would take place in 2025 under similar conditions as the aforementioned.
The report was filed 90 days after the issuance of an executive order to design such a report. The advisory group is composed of unions and representatives of business groups.