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No sector left out of Wage Commission talks, says minister

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

A group set up to make recommendations on minimum and living wages is expected to take into account workers who earn tips, the labour minister has said.

Jason Hayward added that no employment sector will be left out of the commission’s deliberation.

Mr Hayward said in an interview with The Royal Gazette: “I’ve asked the chairman of the Wage Commission, in his deliberations with his committee, to ensure that’s inclusive of the certain industrial sectors which include gratuities, so we would have a comprehensive report that takes that into consideration.

“If it’s not a natural part of their recommendations, certainly I will ask for further clarity.”

He added that if the circumstances of live-in employees such as housekeepers or nannies were not included in any proposed statutory minimum wage “then certainly we would ask for further recommendations so that we have comprehensive coverage of a minimum wage and that no group of individuals are excluded”.

Mr Hayward announced last week that a Wage Commission report on a minimum wage is expected to be submitted by the end of this month.

He said: “I haven’t received a report yet so I’m not going to speculate on what the minimum wage would actually be.

“But I do know for domestic workers we currently have a minimum wage in work permit policy of $10 so that’s the absolute floor at this point.”

The Wage Commission, headed by Cordell Riley, a statistician, was set up about a year ago.

The commission also included Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, economists Robert Stubbs and Craig Simmons, Philip Barnett, the president of Island Restaurant Group and Martha Dismont, the founder and former executive director of Family Centre.

The Progressive Labour Party government said in last year’s Throne Speech that its “immediate action” to supplement the wages of people whose jobs were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic “addressed a need in the community that added urgency to the completion of the work to implement minimum and living wages”.

It added: “In this session, the legislature will take under consideration the final aspects of the wage reform in support of Bermuda’s workers.”

Mr Hayward said that if a report on minimum wage was received from the commission this month, legislation would be tabled “before the end of the summer period”.

He added that, although recommendations on a living wage were expected in the next financial year, the gap between reports would not affect progress on drawing a minimum wage Bill.

Mr Hayward said: “A minimum wage actually promotes fair compensation for employees.

“It does allow an individual to improve their quality of life.”

He added: “It will also allow for us to prevent further exploitation of workers.

“I say that from the context that we have workers that receive paycheques but sometimes they’re minus paycheques, which means after their deductions, sometimes they owe their employer.”

He said that, in some cases, employees’ mandatory health and social insurance contributions could exceed their pay.

Mr Hayward added: “We do have families that are below the poverty line and these are working families.

“What we want to ensure is that we are no longer promoting this notion that businesses can be sustained off of what we would consider to be starvation wages.”

Mr Hayward said that “ongoing consultation and analysis” would help to determine the effect of a minimum wage on businesses.

He added: “We will do the work … to minimise the shock on any establishment.

“I think it’s time that the Government took a bold stance in terms of providing fair compensation for workers.

“I think on this particular matter we can certainly do better.”

Mr Hayward said: “Establishment of minimum wages and moving to implementation of living wage will improve the purchasing power of individuals.

“That has a positive net economic impact.”

He added: “Certainly, the post-Covid world is different from the world pre-Covid.

“Now that we are in the midst of both an economic and jobs crisis and income inequality is being stretched even further, intervention policies such as these are required to ensure that we level the playing field.”

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Published February 02, 2021 at 8:15 am (Updated February 02, 2021 at 8:59 am)

No sector left out of Wage Commission talks, says minister

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