Government minister Alden McLaughlin says he plans to press ahead with plans to introduce minimum wage in Cayman.
He plans to make an amendment to the Labour Law, which would set for the first time a minimum wage before the end of this year’s parliamentary session in March.
One of the major opponents to a minimum wage has been the hospitality industry as servers’ wages are often set low and compensated with gratuities.
Mr. McLaughlin said the amended law could take this into account by combining gratuities and salary to reach the minimum amount set out in law.
‘What complicates the deal in the hospitality industry is because people get a small base salary and gratuities. In high season, they earn lots of money, in low season, they get very little.
‘The reality is the employers themselves in the restaurant and bar business traditionally rely heavily on the gratuities to subsidise wages, so they will continue to resist any formula that requires a flat minimum wage,’ said Mr. McLaughlin.
He added that he had been in talks with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association to discuss the possibility of combining gratuities and wages to reach a formula that would effectively be a minimum wage.
He said he did not want to mention a specific figure for minimum wage at this stage.
‘I intend to see that this amendment to the Labour Law is made before the next election,’ he said.
Despite the growing unemployment rate in Cayman – 3.8 per cent for this year, and expected to rise to 3.9 per cent in the next financial year, according to the government’s Strategic Policy Statement, a pre-budget document that outlines government spending and projected estimates for surpluses, gross domestic product and spending for the next three years – Mr. McLaughlin insisted that creating a minimum wage would not necessary be a quick fix.
‘There is no magic solution. There will always be tensions when you have such a high reliance on foreign labour,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.
Efforts to introduce a minimum wage have previously been done and legislation was amended for this purpose, but the law was never gazetted, Mr. McLaughlin said.