Public views on living wage to be sought
Public opinion on the introduction of a living wage for Bermuda will be heard at a forum next week.
People have been invited to listen to a panel of speakers and give their views after legislators approved a parliamentary report on the subject.
Rolfe Commissiong, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, said the event next Thursday will be “very productive”.
He chaired the cross-party Joint Select Committee that considered the establishment of a living wage after he campaigned to set up the group in 2016.
Mr Commissiong will be on the panel along with Cordell Riley, a statistician, Reverend Nicholas Tweed, the pastor of St Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Martha Dismont, the founder and executive director of Family Centre.
Mr Commissiong said: “This forum is designed to be the first public forum after the historic bipartisan affirmation and support in passing the report in the House of Assembly.
“The PLP is reiterating its commitment to the living wage and we think this forum will be a great opportunity to continue to educate Bermudians about the issue while the Government begins the process of deciding how it is going to implement the living wage, no doubt taking into account the recommendations of the report, and secondly to get feedback from the general public about this important initiative.”
The PLP sponsored the event and it will be moderated by Kim Swan, another of the party's backbenchers.
Proposals in the document, approved by MPs in August, included the introduction of a $12.25 an hour minimum wage on May 1 next year and the establishment of a wage commission to determine the appropriate level for a living wage, which would be implemented in May 2021.
Although calculations earlier arrived at a figure of $18.23, Mr Commissiong has said that was a “benchmark”.
Mr Commissiong said, when the report was debated in the House of Assembly, that “most people would assume” the actual living wage rate would be between $19 and $21 an hour by the time it was in place.
In its report, the JSC said it appreciated that statutory pay was not the only answer and also backed tax reform and ways to cut the cost of living in Bermuda. Mr Commissiong said he hoped the discussion, to be held from 6pm at St Paul Centennial Hall in Hamilton, would also consider income inequality and how that affected island residents.
He added that countries with wide differences in earnings “usually” see a rise in social problems like gangs, violence and poor educational performance.
Mr Commissiong said those problems, and others, had been “prevalent” in Bermuda over the past few decades.
He added his fellow panellists came with “a very substantive and, in some cases, unique perspective that I think will make the discussion on the night very productive”.
Mr Commissiong said: “We invite all Bermudians to turn out, not just the PLP Bermudians.
“It is being hosted by the PLP but it's an event that will be open to everybody.”