Minister: Employment Wage Commission Act

July 24, 2019 | 3 Comments

Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports Lovitta Foggo led the Parliamentary debate and passage of the Employment [Wage Commission] Act 2019 last Friday [July 19].

A Government spokesperson said, “The public will recall that this Spring, Minister Foggo facilitated several public meetings to seek feedback on the creation of a Wage Commission and the establishment and implementation of a living/minimum wage. Friday’s debate also follows the tabling of a report by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee [JSC] last year on The Establishment of a Living/Minimum Wage Regime.

Minister Foggo said, “The purpose of a minimum wage is to protect workers against unduly low pay. The bi-partisan passage of the Employment [Wage Commission] Act 2019 in the House of Assembly last Friday was very encouraging and very gratifying.

“We have done considerable work on this piece of important legislation because we believe that it upholds this Government’s mandate of supporting those who are the most vulnerable among us. And in doing so, we are demonstrating our care and compassion for our people.”

A Ministry spokesperson said, “Today, the Bill will be tabled in the Senate and Minister Foggo said she looks forward to the same bi-partisan support for the Bill in the Senate.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce the Bill entitled the Employment [Wage Commission] Act 2019 which seeks to set up a Wage Commission in order to report on and recommend a minimum and living wage regime for Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, as Honourable Members will be aware; on the 10th August 2018, a Motion was brought before the House of Assembly for the consideration and approval of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee’s Report on the establishment of a Minimum/Living Wage Regime. Amongst other recommendations in the report is the establishment of a Wage Commission.

Mr. Speaker, the Report was approved and the November 2018 Throne Speech confirmed Government’s commitment to implementing a minimum/living wage regime.

Mr. Speaker, the International Labour Organization or ILO as it is commonly referred to, defines minimum wage as and I quote, “the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period, which cannot be reduced by collective agreement or an individual contract.” The purpose of a minimum wage is to protect workers against unduly low pay.

Mr. Speaker, the days of Bermudians being able to pick and choose jobs are gone. The current economic climate puts the demand and supply equation for labour in the employers favour. Unskilled workers now have to compete for jobs and exploitation of workers is occurring. We have all heard of people who are making five, six, seven dollars an hour and this is occurring, in Bermuda, which has one of the highest costs of living globally.

To illustrate, Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members may be aware of a job advert earlier this year in which persons were looking to hire a Live-in Caregiver. The job responsibilities listed were to take care of an elderly person suffering from dementia, clean, cook, provide companionship, run errands, work five days a week from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. and be on call seven nights a week.

The “successful candidate” would have two days off but would have to prep meals before leaving and make $10 per hour less room and board.

Mr. Speaker I think we could all agree that this embodies the term “exploitation”.

Mr. Speaker, this Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of a Wage Commission which will be mandated to inquire into the provision of a statutory wage scheme with the objective of making recommendations on a minimum hourly wage and a living wage rate which would be prescribed by the Minister responsible for Labour.

Mr. Speaker, the composition of the Wage Commission will consist of a total of eight [8] persons; a Chairman, five members and two ex-officio members representing the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry responsible for Labour. Members will be appointed by the Minister responsible for Labour for a period of three years and have broad experience and expertise in economics, law, statistics and other suitable qualifications. Provision will be made to pay the members of the Commission in accordance with the Government Fees Act 1971. The fee is set at $100 per meeting for the Chairman and $50 per meeting for members. A consequential amendment to the Government Authorities [Fees] Act 1971 will be made.

Mr Speaker, to facilitate the proceedings of the Commission, the Bill authorises the Minister to designate a public officer to be the Secretary to the Commission thereby reducing the need for additional administration costs.

Mr. Speaker, the Bill stipulates that the functions of the Commission are to make recommendations on the minimum hourly wage and the living wage rate. To fulfil this mandate, the Commission is required to conduct research, inquiries and analysis, and consult extensively to ensure that all stakeholders including employers and employees and organizations representing employers and employees, have the opportunity to make a contribution. Should the Commission require information from an employer or employee or some other person, they will be able to compel persons, in writing, to supply that information and appear before the Commission. The Commission will also have the power to take copies of the documentation provided.

Mr. Speaker, every three [3] years the Commission will be required to make a report to the Minister responsible for Labour with regard to the proposed minimum hourly wage. . It may be necessary for a review within the three year cycle in the event of a significant economic change in Bermuda or unforeseen consequences of the minimum or living wage that need to be researched and rectified.

Mr. Speaker, the Bill sets out the requirements for the content of the report the Commission is to submit to the Minister, which include [1] the determinations of the Commission on the findings and conclusions of the research, inquiries and consultations and recommendations and [2] the subsequent recommendations and the reasons for the recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, the Bill requires that the recommendations must include an analysis of the impact on the economy of Bermuda, the competitiveness of the economy of Bermuda and any other issue that may have been raised by the Minister responsible for Labour.

Mr. Speaker, once the Minister has received the report he will be obliged to table it for both the House of Assembly and the Senate and may, by order, prescribe the minimum hourly wage.

Mr. Speaker, a living wage is different from a minimum hourly wage in that it purports to provide a decent standard of living for the worker and his/her family.

Mr. Speaker, as with the minimum hourly wage, the Commission is also mandated to make a report to the Minister responsible for Labour every three years with a proposed living wage rate. The requirements for the production of the report are the same for the determination of the living wage rate as they are for the minimum hourly wage. Once the Minister has received the report he/she must table it in both Houses of the Legislature and may, by order, prescribe the living wage rate.

Mr. Speaker, the Commission’s powers are accompanied by enforcement measures. Persons who fail to produce any record, document or information, intentionally delay the work of the Commission or refuse to answer any questions are subject to a fine not exceeding $2,000 and $100 for every day that the offence continues. In the case of a corporate entity the fine will be $7,000 and $500 for every day that the offence continues.

Mr. Speaker, the Bill provides a regulation and order making power for the Minister which will enable him/her to prescribe the minimum hourly wage, the living wage rate and any matters that are necessary for the carrying out of the provisions of the Bill.
The regulations will be made in due course following the Wage Commissions report and recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, we are clearly well behind the times internationally in the establishment of a minimum wage. The ILO asserts that more than 90% of their one hundred and eighty six [186] member states have one or more minimum wages set through legislation or binding collective agreements. Today we are on the road to making a living wage a reality for Bermuda. Our people deserve to live with dignity. They deserve to enjoy decent work and a part of that is to provide for a living wage and this Legislation will make it happen.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee for their work in the production of the Report on the Establishment of a Minimum/Living wage regime.

Thank–you Mr. Speaker!

Share via email

Read More About

Category: All, News, Politics

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Joe Bloggs says:

    “We have done considerable work on this piece of important legislation because we believe that it upholds this Government’s mandate of supporting those who are the most vulnerable among us. And in doing so, we are demonstrating our care and compassion for our people.”

    But Minister, it does not take account of tipped workers in the hospitality industry. Are they to get $50 per hour plus gratuities?

  2. Me says:

    Betta be 50 dollar an howa

  3. Slipnut says:

    Implement price control first! This will drive the costs of living higher.

Leave a Reply