Log In

Reset Password

Lord encourages Bermuda to set minimum wage

Influential speaker: Lord Michael Hastings has encouraged Bermuda to lead by setting benchmarks, such as a minimum wage (Photograph by Raymond Hainey)

Bermuda should introduce a living wage law, a world leader in corporate responsibility said yesterday.

Michael Hastings, global head of corporate citizenship at professional services firm KPMG, was speaking after he highlighted the UN’s sustainable development goals, aimed at ending poverty and hunger and promoting peaceful and fairer societies.

Lord Hastings, listed as one of the most influential black Britons and sixth on this year’s list of top black British business leaders, said: “I would encourage it — a minimum wage sets a benchmark standard for basic dignity.”

He added: “It doesn’t turn the poor into the wealthy, it’s not about vast transfers of money. It’s giving them latitude.

“The difference between seven dollars an hour and ten dollars an hour is life-changing.”

Lord Hastings said that poverty affected about 16 per cent of the population in the US and 10 per cent of the population in the UK.

“Bermuda is a small community — 60,000. I don’t know what the numbers would be which are below an acceptable level,” he said.

“But it would surprise me if Bermuda didn’t have an equal number — 4,000 out of the 60,000. In a community of 60,000, 4,000 people is a lot of people to have out of the corner of opportunity.”

And he added: “Who knows, there could be an entrepreneur lurking there who could get an education elsewhere and transform the whole economy.

“A living wage is not transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor, it’s an investment every community needs to empower dignity and the poor will benefit — it will raise their opportunity and raise their potential.”

Lord Hastings, who has also held senior posts with the World Economic Forum and is vice-president of the UN’s Children and Education Fund, discussed KPMG’s commitment to sustainable development at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute and told the audience that the developed world needed to work harder to create fairer and more prosperous societies in poorer countries.

And he quoted Hillary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State, who said that had the western world invested post-Second World War in the education of people in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq and they learnt how to build strong economies, threats from these areas could have been avoided.

Lord Hastings said: “We are spending billions to squash the dangers around us. It’s a great investment to invest in the poor.

“We have to change the paradigm. We also have to change the view that the money isn’t available. The one per cent now control more wealth that the 99 per cent put together.”

And he added: “Economies like Bermuda, which are wealthy, they are also beacon economies. The reason Bermuda is a beacon is that there is so much wealth contained here.

“Bermuda should lead in setting benchmarks. It should also take a lead in the investment world in how funds are allocated. Where money is fluid, there is an opportunity to leverage for others.”

Lord Hastings added that Bermuda had problems in the areas of low income, the cost of healthcare and that public education “is not as sharp as it could be.”

He said: “In the world in which we live, everybody is a neighbour. If we deal justly and rightly with our community we set the freedom where we can deal justly and rightly with other communities.”