Minimum wage report goes to Cabinet

Cayman’s Minimum Wage Advisory Committee report – which is expected to recommend a pay rate for the territory’s first minimum wage – has been completed and will be presented to Cabinet within the next month, Tara Rivers, minister of education, employment and gender affairs, said Friday.

Ms. Rivers said the lengthy report will be made public following a review by Cabinet members, most likely in the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly, scheduled to begin on April 15.

The report recommends the establishment of a minimum wage in Cayman, as well as the steps the jurisdiction would have to take to reach that point, but Ms. Rivers said she didn’t want to discuss specific figures for a minimum wage until the document was released.

“We are serious about looking at this issue… beyond just the talk shop,” she said Friday. “We wanted [the committee] to come back with a report that says the country is minded to adopt a minimum wage. What is [the committee’s] recommended approach, based on the best information you have to hand?”

One key issue the committee was expected to make recommendations about is how large a percentage of Cayman’s workers might be affected by a minimum wage. Committee Chairman Lemuel Hurlston put that number at 30 percent of the workforce – at most.

Mr. Hurlston said the categories of workers most likely to have wages raised by such a move would include gardeners, security guards, domestics, restaurant servers and other staff and even some administrative office workers.

However, there has been some discussion previously as to whether domestic workers, who can receive room and board as part of their job benefits, and service workers, who often make far more than their base salary in gratuities, should be included if a minimum wage is adopted.

Mr. Hurlston also said he did not believe the committee would try recommending a separate wage rate for different industries due to the complexities of that arrangement.

A series of public meetings held on the topic in February were poorly attended, but Mr. Hurlston said thousands of people had submitted written and verbal comments privately to committee members.

Minister Rivers said, whatever the committee’s recommendations might be, it would be up to Cabinet to decide whether the government wished to implement a minimum wage.

The Cayman Islands Labour Law has long contained provisions for a minimum wage, but no government had created a Minimum Wage Advisory Committee, as the law requires, to recommend a base wage. Various recommendations for a minimum wage, most between $5 and $10 per hour, have been discussed in public settings over the past decade.

The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, the largest organization representing local businesses in the islands, has previously supported the concept of a minimum wage. However, the Chamber has cautioned against running blindly into a solution for a problem that had not been identified.

At a Chamber event in February, Anne Knowles with the International Labour Organization urged Cayman to be clear about why it was adopting a minimum wage, if such a decision was taken.

“The reason that countries introduce a minimum wage is because they have identified a problem that can be addressed by the introduction of that minimum wage,” she said. “The minimum wage is there to protect the most vulnerable unless there is another problem you are trying to address.”

She said a full analysis of the labor market and economic data also needs to be undertaken, and a survey of actual wages paid needs to be recorded. The work of the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee was undertaken in part to identify that data.

For instance, if a minimum wage is set too high, Mrs. Knowles said, it could hinder employment of the least experienced, have a negative impact on young workers, bump up other wages, potentially increase noncompliance with pay rates or increase growth in a country’s “informal” economy.

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Ms. Rivers
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