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Minimum wage comes to reality

In the 2020 Throne Speech, the Progressive Labour Party government made a commitment to the workers of Bermuda to ensure they receive a dignified wage to allow their basic needs to be met. On June 1, the Government will deliver on this promise; a truly momentous occasion for our island.

Benefiting all low-income earners, Bermuda’s first minimum wage will come into effect with an hourly wage of $16.40. The Minister of Economy and Labour, Jason Hayward, said: “This is a promise we have worked diligently and deliberately to implement. It is this government’s desire to provide adequate protection to all Bermudians, and establishing a comprehensive minimum wage is fundamental to ensuring that we progress as a just and equitable society.”

What is minimum wage? The International Labour Organisation defines the minimum wage as “the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period, which cannot be reduced by collective agreement or an individual contract”. Most modern, developed countries have a minimum wage, with more than 90 per cent of countries designated as ILO member states having minimal wages.

In 2019, the former Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sport, Lovitta Foggo, led the debate and passage of the Employment (Wage Commission) Act 2019, stating: “The purpose of a minimum wage is to protect workers against unduly low pay. We have done considerable work on this piece of legislation because we believe that it upholds this government’s mandate of supporting those who are the most vulnerable among us. And in doing so, we are demonstrating our care and compassion for our people.”

In April 2021, Mr Hayward was provided with a report with recommendations for a minimum hourly wage rate in Bermuda from the Wage Commission, an independent authority responsible for implementing the living-wage rate and establishing the regulatory regime around the implementation of the statutory wage scheme based on best practice.

On March 2, 2023, Mr Hayward tabled the Employment (Minimum Hourly Wage) Order 2023, which sets the minimum hourly wage rate for Bermuda at $16.40. The Order provides for a hybrid payment structure for employees who receive gratuities, commissions and service charges. Where a person’s basic wage including service fees, gratuities and/or commission does not equal the minimum hourly wage rate of $16.40, their employer will be liable for the difference.

The Act sets out the guidelines for who is entitled to receive the minimum hourly wage and the enforcement provisions regarding adherence to the payment of a minimum hourly wage.

Additionally, the Act gives labour inspectors within the Department of Labour the authority to investigate an employee’s complaint of not being paid as per the Order and issue enforcement notices to employees who fail to comply with the Order or this Act.

The PLP has always advocated that every Bermudian should be able to afford to have their basic needs met. It is only after fundamental needs such as food, shelter, water, clothing and healthcare are met that a person is able to focus their attention on other goals and objectives.

Everyone deserves to thrive, not just survive.

This government, the Progressive Labour Party and the people of Bermuda support a minimum statutory wage, as all Bermudians deserve to have work and to receive fair compensation.

Ianthia Simmons-Wade is a government backbencher and the MP for Warwick North East (Constituency 25)

Ianthia Simmons-Wade is a government backbencher and the MP for Warwick North East (Constituency 25)

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Published May 30, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated May 29, 2023 at 6:52 pm)

Minimum wage comes to reality

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