When the Gender Equality Law was passed in 2011, lawmakers hailed it as an important step toward rectifying systemic bias toward men over women in the Cayman Islands private sector.
Now, in its highest-profile decision yet, the associated Gender Equality Tribunal has issued a ruling based on the opposite: that a woman was unfairly being paid more than men in comparable positions, and for a government job in Cayman’s prisons system.
Underscoring the absurdity of it all is the infinitesimal magnitude of the “disparity” in pay between the female prison supervisor and the four male custodial managers — amounting, in total, to 1.7 percent per year. (For our readers without a calculator nearby, that equates to $850 per year for a $50,000 salary or $425 for a $25,000 salary. In other words, a rounding error.)
In addition, the obvious question needs to be asked: What’s sex got to do with this?
The Tribunal’s ruling dwelled at length on issues unrelated to “gender equality,” namely the pre-existing friendship and work history between the female supervisor Nina White and Cayman Islands Prison Director Neil Lavis — a connection that Mr. Lavis had appropriately disclosed to ministry officials and fellow interview panel members before Ms. White interviewed for the job.
If primary issues to be considered involved allegations of pay inequality because of personal favoritism, why did the matter go before the Gender Equality Tribunal in the first place, rather than the Labour Tribunal?
As a general point, we resist and resent efforts to divide the human species into subcategories, to reduce them to superficial characteristics, such as gender, race, religion, class or nationality, and to attempt to compare and judge them accordingly. Since we have a Gender Equality Tribunal, are we to have a tribunal for each of the other traits we listed above, plus additional ones for blood type, dietary restrictions or political ideology?
We would contend the opposite. Citizen tribunals are little more than coteries of amateur judges. The lack of training, experience and judicial temperament leads directly to decisions like the one made by the Gender Equality Tribunal. This single case is a persuasive argument in favor of getting rid of the Gender Equality Tribunal, for starters.
It is difficult to believe that this kind of intrusive flexing of authority over an ultimately trivial matter is what our elected officials envisioned when they unanimously approved the Law and created the Tribunal. We would argue, on the other hand, that it was inevitable.
The Tribunal’s methodology of attempting to compare salaries, using criteria such as job titles and years of experience, is fundamentally flawed.
As any business owner will tell you, an individual’s job title does not equate to the value he or she brings to a company. “Years on the job” is also a poor indicator, one promoted primarily by entities (such as unions) who oppose “merit pay” and government bureaucrats who like simple, “one size fits all” metrics. Stated briefly, people defy such simplistic categorization.
In a way, it is good that the first vehicle to hit the Gender Equality Tribunal pothole is a government-controlled one. If a private company were dragged through this process over a matter of 1.7 percent, it would have a profound, chilling effect on Cayman’s business environment.
The ruling should serve as a warning to officials, signaling the necessity of swift action in regard to this rogue Tribunal — and, more broadly, of intense critical scrutiny of Cayman’s entire network of citizen panels adjudicating administrative law.