Minimum wage 
on its way: Bush

The government could introduce legislation covering a minimum wage by June, Premier McKeeva Bush said Monday.

Speaking at a press briefing during a break in a debate over amendments to the Labour Law, Mr. Bush said the issue of minimum wage was currently being discussed by his party caucus and he hoped legislation could be brought before Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly by June.

Mr. Bush was responding to an attempt by independent member for North Side Ezzard Miller to introduce a clause in the Labour Law for a $5-per-hour minimum wage during a debate on amendments to the law. Mr. Miller’s motion was later withdrawn at the committee stage of the debate after Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence ruled that, under parliamentary procedural rules, Mr. Miller’s motion was “incomplete” and not relevant to the specific amendments to the law being considered.

“When anyone comes to talk about this government not wanting to do a minimum wage, you’re talking absolutely nonsense. We are committed to it, we have been discussing it at our caucus. The minister [of Labour, Rolston Anglin] will be ready in due course, but we have to give him time to get through what he is doing,” said Mr. Bush, who described salaries in Cayman as “atrocious”.

Mr. Bush insisted that his government would not be forced into voting on the matter of minimum wage before it was ready to do so and said Mr. Miller’s motion had been improperly brought before the House.

The premier said the clerk and the Speaker of the House were wrong to have placed Mr. Miller’s motion on the agenda to be considered at committee stage of the meeting and that members should not have to vote on it.

He said the government could not make an undertaking that it would set a minimum wage of $5, and further research and discussion would be needed before deciding what the minimum wage would be. “The UDP and my government is committed to putting a minimum wage that is practical and reasonable and will work for the employer and the employee to their benefit and that hopefully will come before June or by June,” he said.

However, Mr. Miller pointed out during the debate on whether his motion should be included that he had brought similar motions on minimum wage twice before – during amendments to the Penal Code and the Immigration Law – and they had been voted down. He said that since the bill in question related to workers’ compensation and severance pay, the issue of a minimum wage was relevant.

Mr. Miller said he believed that his motion had been brought correctly and refused to withdraw it. His assertion that the motion had been properly brought before the committee was backed by members of the opposition.

“I am not withdrawing the bill,” he said, adding that he believed his bill amendments were related to the government’s amendment because a minimum wage would have an impact on what severance or compensation was paid to an employee.

He told the Speaker: “I think you and the clerk were right in allowing it… It is properly before this House. I do not accept the government’s position that I have brought anything here that is improper, incorrect or outside the bounds of standing orders… The government can’t now cop out of voting on this matter by saying that somebody else has erred in bringing this before the committee. This is properly before the committee in my view, and I’m not bailing them out this time.”

However, the issue ultimately did not come to a vote because Mrs. Lawrence, citing Erskine May, the UK’s handbook for parliamentary procedure, said Mr. Miller’s proposed amendment had not been properly brought because he should have brought an amendment to the schedule of the law, rather than as a separate clause to the bill, and that his amendment was outside the scope of the legislation being considered by the House.

The member for North Side said that while he did not understand what “schedule” the Speaker was referring to, he would accept her decision.

The amendments to the Labour Law, which were passed by members of the Legislative Assembly on Monday afternoon, abolish a cap on severance pay for workers who retire, are laid off or are unfairly dismissed.

Previously, employers were legally bound to pay one week’s pay for every year worked by a member of staff, with a limit of 12 weeks’ pay. The amended law stipulates that employers must pay severance for each year worked by the employee, regardless of how many years that person has been employed.

The legislation also eliminates caps on payments to retirees who worked for a company before the National Pensions Law was introduced more than 10 years ago. Mr. Anglin cited the example of a 76-year-old woman who was already past retirement age when the pensions law was introduced in 1998. “She was already [older than] 60 when the National Pensions Law came into force and had not been receiving 5 per cent contribution [toward her pension], but she is still employed. She has now gone beyond 12 years with the same employer, and so lifting this cap will be of benefit to her when she does retire one day,” he said.

He said the government had chosen to address the severance pay issue separately from other areas of the Labour Law because, while the government was currenting working on producing a White Paper on wide-ranging amendments to the Labour Law, “we ought not to have waited when there were some obvious and glaring issues such as this one”.

The Legislative Assembly will resume this morning (Wednesday).

12 COMMENTS

  1. If they instate minimum wage. I give it 5 years or less until they have to create a personal income tax. Reason being. Minimum wage is going to drive up the cost of basic goods. And those that cannot afford it and are on assistance, will need more money than they do now. which means further strain on government coffers.

    Just a matter of time before incometax is introduced.

    Then wait 10 years when the minumum wagers demand MORE money. Get ready for MORE income tax. hehehe.

    They are opening up a pandoras box. And they dont even see it.

  2. This will benefit quite a bit of expats becuase they are the ones holding most of the jobs that will be set for minimum wages. Im sure Caymanians will still say these jobs are below thier standards….

  3. Well big berd it seems that the country diagress with you and finally slavery will be abolished in Cayman and people will be paid a fair wage. I dont thibk you should wait though for the flood gates of hell to break loose and there will be a sudden influx of people looking for jobs. Time to move on to the next theory of economics. And as for your theory of income tax, I agree that you are right. It is coming and you cant stop it either.

  4. So far as income tax is concerned, it seems many Caymanians dont understand that services have to be paid for. If you want the option to live on welfare rather than wait tables, or to be paid over the odds for a civil service non-job, the money has to come form somewhere. With the expats being driven out by rollover and general hostility, work permit income is falling. The conclusion is inevitable.

  5. The motion put on the table by the Member for North Side, Mr. Ezzard Miller to provide a minimum wage for Caymanian workers is well warranted. The unscrupulous suggestions of Big Berd in our local forums represents Corporate Caymans Big fish seeking to devour the little fish and to deny a quorum to those bodies and thereby prevent votes on minimum wage legislation for the people of the Cayman Islands.

    This can be compared to this week recent U.S. Senates filibuster by the Democrats to stop a vote on Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsins anti-union bill.Gov. Scott Walker used the state budget as a lame excuse to deny state workers their right to collective bargaining at the table for them to enjoy a middle class way of life! It includes their health care, social security, pension, 401K and much more. This proposed bill that would hurt the middle class which is the Working Class is supported by the right wing Republicans now very furious, because of the walkout by the left wing Democrats who seems to be more sympathetic towards the state union workers.

    There are comparisons about whats happening in the U.S. Senate our local Legislature, and Big Berds ruthless stance on this critical issue. It should be noted that the state union workers right to collective bargaining has nothing to do with the U.S.State budget, Nothing to do with imposing Taxes on the People of the Cayman Islands BUT: It has Everything to do with wiping out the middle class diminishing their collective bargaining rights at the table, and ENRICHING THE ALREADY RICH, yes Corporate America and Corporate Cayman. Making the rich richer and the poor, poorer.

    Fortunately Mr. Ezzard Millers proposed bill for minimum wage legislation is being considered for a vote by June of 2011 and left in the hands of the Cayman Islands Legislators who are a minority now willing to grant the majority the opportunity to receive and enjoy a minimum wage where there was none.We congratulate Mr. Ezzard Miller on his proposed bill for this very important legislation soon to be passed. This is why we elect Legislators and why we pay them each a top salary with our hard earned tax dollars.

  6. And of course the introduction of an income tax will finally drive away the financial services industry, leading to a further collapse in expat numbers and consequential slumps in the property market, hospitality industry etc etc

  7. Whoa, Tiger! Governor Walker IS following his own states constitution in having to provide a balanced budget. However, it is also about the downfall of unions. The union workers have been on a salary and perk binge for too long in not contributing to their own health care, pensions, 401ks, etc. The rest of us folks have had pay their way and it needs to end and will. People are desperately trying to save for their own retirement, pay a large percentage of their own health care and have very little job security unlike the union workers who are now whining about having to come up with a few more dollars to cover themselves. Poor things. The results of their guaranteed jobs and salaries are pitiful. Most 8th graders out of Wisconsins schools are way below average for reading and math and yet the teachers dont worry as long as they continue to have the security of their positions within the school system. As most know, they called in sick,got phoney Dr.notes and forsook the very children they so adamantly profess to care about. Mr. Obama is more than likely having sleepless nights since a large part of his votes were bought and paid for by unions.That is why, for all his talk about spending within your means and belt tightening, he is aghast at the thought of union demise. And, by the way, collective barganing will remain, but for salaries only. God bless the true working class, not the unions. They dont ask for much. Just fairness. So, Tiger,I say people are smart enough to see through your left wing orating. By the way, I vote yes to minimum wage. Just had to say.

  8. Whoa Lucy!

    Nice Recital! Sounds like Big Berd or Mick Romney in disguise. Good strong conservative rebuttal with a right wing agenda, similar to a catcher freeman slave song? despite Emancipation! You could have fooled me with your last phrase that you in fact approve of the minimum wage legislation for the Caymanian people.
    Balancing the budget to Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin means balancing the budget ON THE BACKS OF THE WORKING MIDDLE CLASS while lining the pockets of Wall street also known as the corporate elite who have already received billions of these same tax payers dollars by deception in bailout monies only to be caught by the Federal government living large and lavishly,on the tax payers working class monies with No accountability.

    No government liberal or conservative should be allowed to deny any group of people whether trade union, civil service union, or private individual THEIR RIGHT TO ACT ON THEIR OWN BEHALF, BY exercising their right through COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AT THE TABLE. THAT IS SOCIALISM to say the least.

    And all those in the church and standing outside the church said AMEN.

  9. Its Mitt Romney, not Mick Romney,okay?, and the backs of the working middle class people are already breaking or going broke by paying these unions bills. Entitlements need to stop and those that actually work, run businesses and believe in free enterprise should be praised whether they are on the left or the right. This is what a free country is all about. If they succeed, make a good living, pay their share,and create real jobs then they have become worthwhile citizens. The US is governed by rule of law, not mob rule as is being tried in Wisconsin. But enough of that, just tune in to your TV and see the whiners for yourself. And once again, the unions have not lost collective bargaining, just the extra entitlements they are fussing about. PS. The present administration bought and bailed out most of the corporations you speak of.

  10. Whoa, Tiger and Lucy !

    This is getting good !

    Im loving this heated exchange of right and left wing economic idealogy.

    Wish the politicians were as intelligent, informed and aware as you two. LOL !

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