Despite government’s insistence that this is a “topic of national importance,” if we were forced to identify the single policy proposal in Cayman that least merited the hosting of six separate special town hall conversations — it just might be the minimum wage.
The thousands of residents in North Side, East End and Bodden Town who didn’t bother going to meetings in their districts this week seem to agree. In particular, Wednesday night’s meeting in Bodden Town attracted a grand total of four members of the public. That is most unimpressive, even more so considering that the town hall hosts, government’s Minimum Wage Advisory Committee, comprises 19 people who have been pursuing the topic for eight months. (It is unclear, at this point, whether the combined attendance at all the meetings has yet surpassed the number of committee members.)
Heretofore, the community’s apathy has not been confined to Bodden Town.
Minimum wage proponent and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller blamed the scant showing at his district’s Monday night meeting on the timing of the event. If it would have been scheduled at 8 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. — he explained — attendance at the Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre might have been considerably better. (You see, because of driving distances, North Siders typically don’t make it home from work until rather late, and then, of course, they must have supper with their families first before turning thoughts to public meetings. Anything before 8 is simply too early.)
In Bodden Town, committee chair Lemuel Hurlston said his group has already received written feedback from more than 400 businesses and about 2,500 people. Perhaps the committee’s preemptive engagement is the reason for poor attendance at the town halls.
However, following the example of English friar William of Ockham, we would postulate that in this instance, the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one. In brief: Nobody’s attending because nobody’s interested.
Underlying discussions of Cayman’s minimum wage is a set of basic facts that have not changed since the committee was formed eight months ago, nor since lawmakers rejected Mr. Miller’s $5 per hour minimum wage motion 12 months ago, nor since lawmakers supported Mr. Miller’s same $5 per hour proposal more than three years ago, nor in the past decades since the topic began circulating regularly among the political discourse.
The groups most likely to have their salaries boosted through a minimum wage — gratuity earners, domestic helpers and, in general, no-to-low-skilled expatriates — are the groups most likely to be exempted from minimum wage requirements.
There is no simple, obvious and effective apparatus in Cayman through which to enforce a national minimum wage, if enacted.
No wonder people’s interest on the subject of a minimum wage is exhausted. We’re exhausted, too — with the topic — and with government’s interminable process.