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Wage Commission members criticise minimum wage report

Hard facts to follow: Economist Robert Stubbs (Photograph supplied)

An economist yesterday accused the government of failing to face up to the scale of the island’s economic crisis.

Robert Stubbs – a member of the Wage Commission – added the government’s failure to take immediate action on minimum wages was harming Bermudians on low incomes.

The commission, which was appointed last year, submitted its first findings to the House of Assembly last month and outlined recommendations for a minimum wage scale.

It will submit a second report with recommendations for a living wage next year.

But Government has said no action will be taken on implementing a minimum wage until the commission’s findings on a living wage were available.

Mr Stubbs refused to sign the six-strong commission’s first report and claimed it was “rather hastily produced and not an accurate reflection of the Wage Commission’s deliberations”.

He added: “Moreover, the commission’s mandate was to ’conduct such studies, reviews and analyses as are necessary and to make recommendations on the minimum hourly wage’.

“Yet, in spite of the report’s importance to our economy and our low-income workers, apart from quoting a few percentages, there was no analysis in the report whatsoever.

“In particular, I was disappointed there was no acknowledgement of the extent of our economy’s weakness and no analysis of Covid-19’s impact on the economy.

“As we all know, Covid-19 has only made our problems of poverty and income inequality that much worse, and it is precisely those industries who have been adversely impacted by Covid-19 who will be mandated to pay the minimum wage.”

Mr Stubbs is head of research at Seed Bermuda, a think tank set up to carry out research, policy analysis, advocacy and public awareness campaigns.

He said: “Like every Bermuda Government since 2008, it appears this government refuses to make hard choices and is intent on kicking the can down the road.

“If no one sees any analysis, it’s easier to ignore the scale of the crisis.”

Mr Stubbs added: “As they say, step one in any recovery programme is admitting the scale of one’s problems. In the meantime, those paying the highest price for our inactivity are our low-income Bermudians.”

He was speaking after Chris Furbert, the leader of the Bermuda Industrial Union, stood down from the commission over its failure to take immediate action over a living wage.

Mr Stubbs said: “I sympathise with Chris Furbert’s frustrations.”

Mr Furbert added his decision came “fairly recently” as the report was being compiled.

He highlighted the BIU had discussed a living wage for several years.

Mr Furbert said: “I want the public to understand the value the BIU brought to the table.”

A living wage also featured in the manifesto of the People’s Campaign pressure group, of which Mr Furbert was a leading member.

Mr Furbert added: “I said this quite candidly to the commission – you come up with a minimum wage, the people that want to see a living wage are going to be irate.

“You look at all the data about Bermuda and the expensive jurisdiction it is.

“All these reports over the years, and we keep kicking the can down the road like we’re afraid to make a decision.

“The cost of living in this country is too high.

Mr Furbert asked: “How many people have got to move to the UK or to America before we come to the conclusion that the cost of living is too high?”

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Published June 03, 2021 at 7:53 am (Updated June 03, 2021 at 8:00 am)

Wage Commission members criticise minimum wage report

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