COVID-19 leaves minimum wage review in limbo

Premier: We are committed to a review

Completion of a comprehensive review of Cayman’s minimum wage is unlikely to take place before the May 2021 elections as government continues to grapple with COVID-19.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, responding to questions in the Legislative Assembly last week on the issue from George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan, said a review was due every four years and had been expected to be delivered this year, but the pandemic has impacted those plans.

“As a result of challenges stemming from the pandemic and a reprioritising of national strategies, the ministry has not been able to consistently engage with the [International Labour Organisation] to further progress the review,” McLaughlin, who is the minister of employment, said.

However, he added that building local workforce resiliency remains one of the government’s priorities.

McLaughlin said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, “good progress” had been made with the ILO in commencing plans for a minimum wage review.

Bryan pressed the premier on when the review will be completed and when a change in the minimum wage will be made.

The premier said a review would not necessarily mean there will be an increase in the minimum wage. The current $6-an-hour minimum wage came into effect on 1 March 2016 under McLaughlin’s previous administration.

He said the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee, which falls under his portfolio as employment minister, agreed not to do a review during an election year, which rules out 2021 as Cayman will go to the polls on 26 May.

When Bryan asked the premier to give a formal timeline for the review, McLaughlin responded that he could not commit to a schedule because he could not predict what will happen with COVID-19.

He also added the ministry “has been under incredible stress and is still under incredible pressure doing everything we can to keep as many Caymanians employed as possible”.

“I think it is unreasonable to expect that it would be business as usual in the current environment,” he said.

McLaughlin added a review of the minimum wage would be done in due course and as quickly as circumstances permit.

“We are doing everything we can to keep businesses operational, to keep people employed, to keep the unemployment rate from spiralling out of control,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. That is far more important at this stage than trying to address these particular issues about minimum wage.”

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