Pennywise Ltd reverses unpaid lunch-hr decision

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Pennywise Super Centre, La Romaine. Two guards were killed outside during an armed robbery in September. –

Pennywise Cosmetics Ltd will have a paid lunch-hour and a 15-minute break for its workers who are on minimum wage, after the company reversed an earlier decision to remove these provisions.

A post in its Facebook page on Thursday said the company had reverted to the original terms and conditions of employment following queries raised by members of the public.

“We wish to advise our valuable employees, and the concerned public, that we have decided to revert to the original terms and conditions as applicable.

“This decision has been made following advice from our industrial relations consultant as we seek to continue to comply with the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act and other applicable labour laws,” Pennywise said in the post on its FB page.

Earlier this week, Pennywise director Dr Shivum Paladee was reported in the media as saying that removing the provisions were to deal with having to pay an additional $3 per hour for some 400 of its employees, in keeping with the minimum wage increase on January 1, from $17.50 to $20.50.

The move was widely discussed by members of the public across various social media platforms.

In an interview, industrial relations expert and Newsday’s Business Day magazine columnist Diana Mahabir-Wyatt said the original decision was wrong.

She opined that if workers were employed under a system that allows payment during their lunch and also 15-minute break, such terms could not be unilaterally changed.

“If you are hired, and the employment conditions include payment for eight hours of the day and that is inclusive of the entire eight hours, then you are being paid for your lunch and your breaks as well. This can’t be changed according to law unless the person (who stands to be affected) agrees,” Mahabir-Wyatt said.

She added that the Minimum Wage Order (2014) specifically prohibited any employer from adjusting the terms and conditions of employment because of a rate increase.

Section nine of the order states: “This Order shall not be construed as authorising – (a) the reduction of wages paid to those employees who already receive wages in excess of the minimum wage; and (b) changes in the existing terms and conditions of any worker to effect a lowering of such terms and conditions.”

When contacted on the matter on Thursday, Pennywise’s Chief Executive Officer Dalvi Paladee asked that all questions be sent to him via e-mail for a response.