Servers working in Grand Cayman say they are struggling to get by on wages that are sometimes as low as $3 an hour.
Several servers spoke in support of a minimum wage, saying that even with generous tips, wages are too low.
Waitresses and bartenders that spoke to the Caymanian Compass acknowledged that they can sometimes take home $100 a night in tips. But not all make that much, and the money flowing in from gratuities is inconsistent and can die off in low season, while the bills keep coming.
Most believe that a standard hourly minimum wage should be imposed for the profession, irrespective of tips, which come from the customer, not the business owner.
Sam Gill, a Canadian resident who has been working as a server at Karoo for $4.50 an hour, said, “I know a lot of people that have left because the wages aren’t high enough here. I think a minimum wage is definitely necessary. Some people are earning $3.25 an hour. Even with tips, you can’t manage on that with what you pay for rent here.”
Ms. Gill plans to return to Canada where the minimum wage is between $9 and $11 in different territories, with no exception made for jobs that attract tips, which are not mandatory in Canada.
She acknowledged Cayman might need to start at a lower rate, but said many in the profession would welcome a minimum wage.
“I think it is irrelevant that some of us earn good tips. Sometimes servers don’t make tips, particularly in slow season, we are still working the hours and we should be getting paid for it.”
She said the low wages enable restaurants to overstaff, cutting the share of the tips for servers.
Diana Issa, who worked at Coconut Joe’s until recently for just over US$3 an hour, said she survived off tips, which could be as much as $600 a week. She said she felt there should be a standard wage for the profession.
“Regardless if it’s a lower wage than other jobs that don’t get tips, it should be somewhat the same at all food and beverage establishments. Some people I know get $4 or $10 per hour. We do the same work, the same positions.” Another server, who is still working in the industry and did not want to be named, said, “The cost of living is too high. Servers’ wage is not relative, especially when tourism isn’t consistent.”