Minimum wage talk revived

The debate over whether the Cayman Islands should have a minimum wage will soon be renewed.

Mr. McLaughlin

Mr. McLaughlin

Employment Minister Alden McLaughlin said Friday that labour management consultant Samuel Goolsarran will be visiting the islands this week to begin the process of advising the government on an ‘organisational strategy’ for the Department of Employment Relations.

The consultant’s study will encompass a review of current Labour and Employment Laws on the islands. One of the issues included in that review will be the minimum wage.

Though he’s quick to point out the current government hasn’t taken a position on it, Mr. McLaughlin said he’s a strong supporter of minimum wage laws.

‘I know first-hand some of the exploitation that goes on,’ he said. ‘It’s not just exploitation of the foreigners….its how (that exploitation) distorts the labour market for the locals…who are unwilling and unable to work for $3.50 an hour.’

The Labour Law (2001 revision) does give the Governor the ability to establish a Minimum Wage Advisory Committee to investigate the issue and make recommendations.

‘It’s a rather convoluted process,’ said Mr. McLaughlin. ‘I think its part of the reason why it’s never happened.’

Mr. McLaughlin also stated there are problems with other sections of the Labour Law which are outdated, particularly provisions dealing with overtime.

The law requires employees in the Cayman Islands to be paid overtime at a time-and-a-half rate after working 45 hours a week, unless a separate agreement has been approved by a Labour Tribunal.

However, the Department of Employment Relations has previously acknowledged that employees who choose to work extra hours for straight time pay, or no pay at all, weaken the bargaining power of those who wish to receive overtime pay.

Mr. McLaughlin said no one should be forced to work more than 45 hours a week, unless the employee, employer, and the Tribunal have previously agreed to that.

‘We don’t need to make it any more illegal, we just need to find means of enforcing the law.’