Minimum wage would apply to all, Mr Stewart
I refer to the opinion piece by Robert Stewart published in your newspaper on Friday, April 28.
The author expresses “incredulity and sadness that several community leaders would put their reputations behind such incredible ignorance of basic economics”.
The issue to which he is referring is the recommendation for a minimum wage in Bermuda; among the community leaders to whom he is referring are Craig Simmons, Sheelagh Cooper, Cordell Riley, Lynn Whitfield and Chris Furbert.
I cannot comment on the extensive details of Mr Stewart's argument. I note, however that economist Craig Simmons, while reporting on the ZBM newscast of Thursday, April 27, included a word of caution about the potential impact of the recommendation.
I find it fascinating that the author asserts that young, black work applicants may be disadvantaged by this recommendation. He cites, in support of his assertion, the practices in racist South Africa during the apartheid era where the white unions insisted on a minimum wage for black workers (that the minimum wage was set at a high level in order to discourage the employment of blacks).
What the author fails to clarify is that the black worker-applicant could not be removed from the potential labour pool in South Africa. They just continued to suffer until there was revolutionary change.
From my reading of the local situation, the group preparing the report are stating that all persons working in Bermuda should have a minimum wage.
This is designed to change the ongoing practice of employers in certain fields seeking applicants from low-wage countries who would accept lower pay to carry out jobs that could be done by Bermudians.
The arguments that employers use now are identical to the arguments recorded in the Plowman Report of the 1960s concerning the putative poor work ethic of Bermudians.
It is fortunate that then Member for Immigration, E.T. Richards, did not accept their argument but insisted on an improved system of immigration control.
As many may recall the tourism era of 1960-1980 is currently considered the heyday of tourism.