Employment Minister Rolston Anglin has effectively nixed a proposal to implement a minimum wage in the Cayman Islands, at least in the short term.
Responding to a question asked during a Chamber of Commerce public meeting Wednesday, Mr. Anglin said he had no immediate plans to introduce a minimum wage into the Labour Law.
The query came at the end of a 90-minute ‘be informed’ session hosted by the Chamber on local pension and labour issues.
“Is there any plan to change the pension contribution amount, the percentage and also to introduce a minimum wage in the Labour Law?” asked Chamber President Jim O’Neill.
“No and no,” said Minister Anglin, who acknowledged that he expected a motion in the upcoming Legislative Assembly meeting that would propose the creation of a $5 per hour basic wage rate.
Mr. Anglin has previously said that he was not opposed to a minimum wage, but that the issue is far more complex than simply setting an arbitrary rate.
“We are going to set up a group, not a minimum wage advisory committee, but there’s a minimum wage group that is going to explore the issue of minimum wage to come back and talk about what’s existing in the economy and what work needs to be done,” he said, indicating that at the end of a few months’ review a decision about whether to proceed would be made.
“It’s quite easy to have aspirations like a minimum wage,” Mr. Anglin said. “I don’t think there are many people that disagree with the principle of a minimum amount of money that every person should make. But it has to take into consideration your economy, your current workforce and your current economic climate.”
For instance, the hiring of domestic helpers poses quite a problem if Cayman were to introduce a minimum wage, Mr. Anglin said.
“The single biggest employer group [in Cayman is] individuals who employ domestic helpers,” the minister said. “So if someone’s going to say to me ‘yes we should have a minimum wage but the first exemption is going to be domestic helpers’…I don’t know if I can…go to the [United Democratic Party] caucus and recommend that, much less go to the house.
“We need to figure out what we’re going to do with 6,000 domestics, the vast majority of whom are currently making less than five dollars an hour.”
Also, the issue of whether employees who receive tips should make a minimum wage would also need to be decided, Mr. Anglin said.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller has tried three times since being elected to get the government to vote on a $5 per hour minimum wage. Attempt number four is expected in the upcoming meeting of the Legislative Assembly, where Mr. Miller has filed a private members motion on the issue.
“Hopefully, I have got it in a sensible form this time and the government will have to vote yea or nay,” Mr. Miller said earlier this month.
In response to Mr. O’Neill’s other question, Mr. Anglin said there has been no discussion regarding increasing mandatory minimum contribution rates for private sector employee pensions.
Currently, private sector businesses are required to contribute an additional 5 per cent of employees’ salary from their own pockets, with a matching contribution coming from the employees themselves for a total pension contribution of 10 per cent of salary.
“I certainly don’t have a mandate to increase pension contribution levels at this time,” Mr. Anglin said.
A 2006 consultant’s report recommended increasing those contributions to retirement funds as a matter of urgency, since it deemed current levels wouldn’t allow employees to save enough to cover their retirement.
Acting Pensions Superintendent Amy Wolliston, who also attended the Chamber meeting, noted that there is nothing that prevents employers or employees from increasing pension contributions above the mandatory minimum level set out in legislation.