30% of workers in minimum wage bracket

| 13/02/2015 | 42 Comments

(CNS): The chair of the Minimum Wage Committee revealed that as much as 30% of the workforce is on low pay and could be impacted by the introduction of a minimum wage. Outlining the massive amount of work undertaken by the committee over the last eight months, Lemuel Hurlston said the lower paid workers were predominantly in five areas: helpers, security officers, restaurant workers, sales staff and low-level admin clerks.

Hurlston told the small group of around a dozen people who turned up for a public meeting in George Town Thursday night that the committee had collected a vast amount of information and consulted a wide cross-section of the community. He said that the concept of a minimum wage is being broadly welcomed but when the committee gives its recommendations to Cabinet about where the level should be set, it needed to ensure that it was not too low or too high. But he said it was better to gradually increase the basic wage from a more conservative starting point than to start too high and have to push it down.

Although government is now hoping for a simple flat rate, there are still a number of issues that the committee must wrestle with and that includes how to treat those on commission, people who receive gratuities and the balance of in-kind payment and benefits for helpers who live-in. Hurlston pointed out that the law would have to make adjustments for these types of workers, while self-employed sole traders would be exempt.

One area of concern, however, is enforcement. Hurlston pointed out that, just like the labour, pension or health insurance laws, it was important to enact such legislation but enforcing the law is costly, and that would have to be factored into the minimum wage legislation.

Nick Joseph, the deputy chair of the committee, highlighted the difficulties government will encounter with enforcement. He said that during the research and consultation period the committee had come to understand that the figures given to immigration by employers regarding the salaries they pay are often overstated. Joseph, a member of the Caymanian Bar Association, said there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that anywhere from 60% to a staggering 90% of wage levels stated on permit applications are not what the workers are actually being paid.

There are two main goals government hopes to achieve by introducing a minimum wage. One is to address the problem of very low pay, the exploitation that goes with it and the growing local dependence on cheap  foreign labour. The second goal is to bring more Caymanians into the formal workforce.

Many Caymanians are not registered or captured in any government statistics because they generate income in an informal economy, making the real unemployment statistic is a moving target. With estimates that around 3,000 or more Caymanians are out of work, far greater than the levels claimed by government, Hurlston described the unemployment statistics as fluid.

Attendees at the meeting, while supporting the concept of a minimum wage, voiced concerns that unless it was over $7 per hour, it might not add more Caymanians to the workforce and the exploitation of cheap labour would continue. Hurlston had identified the “seduction” of cheap labour in Cayman for employers post Ivan as an “addiction”.

Despite the question mark regarding government’s second goal, Hurlston said the committee had now collated all of the data it needed,  as well as analysis and research from independent consultants both here and overseas, and it was ready to put a report together that would address all of the factors and arrive at a figure. Once Cabinet has considered the report and decide what recommendations it would adopt, the government will bring the legislation to parliament, which they hope will be early next year.

The last of the public consultation meetings and the final opportunity for input into the report will be on Monday night in West Bay at the John Cumber school hall at 7pm.


Category: Jobs, Local News

Comments (42)

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  1. Red Shank says:

    Until we get a PROPER enforcement arm in both Immigration and Labour nothing will change. These 2 government agencies should be working in tandem to fight the abuses.

  2. Concerned says:

    XXXXXX pay $6 hr to security guards who regularly work 60-70-80-90 hours a week and get paid zero overtime. They work for weeks without a day off. Where are the enforcers of the law for these people?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Please explain to me why in the Cayman Islands so many Caymanians feel the need to have a helper at all. Is house work beneath you, is ironing beyond your capabilities, is juggling looking after a home and holding down a job not the Caymanian way? Do tell.

    • Anonymous says:

      Some people don’t have a choice in caring for their child. There is no one else to care for their child in the hours that they have to work. I think that very few people hire a helper to just do housework unless they are working very long hours and have a big house. Most people that I know don’t want to hire a helper.

    • 1111guest says:

      So your answer to minimum wage is to get rid of those earning a minimum wage? I don’t doubt that there are many people here being taken advantage of, and it’s not really a whole answer of it being better than they can get back home, but if it weren’t better here, why would anyone put up with it? I just think that they need to be smart about this, if enacting a minimum wage means people lose their jobs surely those same people this is targetted at helping will be hurt?

    • Sharkey says:

      The way the committee is talking about minimum wage, is protecting the politicians and business owners that are making bigger profit by being able to pay the very least , and politicians putting off till the election. If I could speak and act for everyone , I would March to the politicians and tell them to have this issue fixed now, or I’ll fix your job next election.

    • 1111 says:

      Personally, yes, ironing is beyond my capabilities, cleaning, pool maintenance, washing, painting, mechanics, gardening, yes, ironing, no.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because they can afford to do it. The people who accept these jobs are not from countties where there is opportunity. They then come here and want to be elevated from what they agreed to. Th thought process is since you make a lot of moneyyou need to give me more. Class systems have been around since the beginning of time. Complusionary measures will not bridge the gap. Hard work plus education is a great start.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I support minimum wage. I fear that the committee, by setting a target “to bring more Caymanians into the formal workforce”, will fail at its primary remit. A minimum wage will not be attractive to ‘voluntarily unemployed’ Caymanians, i.e., those who have found a way to get by without working. Minimum wage is about addressing a moral wrong – unfair pay for fair work. There are enough ‘fair pay’ jobs out there that this isn’t what is keeping our people unemployed. Bringing Caymanians out of unemployment is a separate issue with a whole host of other needed solutions. Minimum Wage is, maybe, one of them and a minor one at best I think. If you set a minimum wage so high that it really entices people to flip burgers instead of ‘living free’, then the price of the burger will go so high that the Minimum Wage opponents will be able to show their fears come to pass. And the initiative will fail. Because a Minimum Wage is being used to do something its not designed to. Like driving a car on the runway. Its not going to take off, its going to run in to the sea. And that’s not the fault of the runway or the car.

    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanians will not work for 7.00 per hour, they want 12.00 – 15.00 per hour even though they are unskilled. Put the minimum wage at 7.00 per hour and you will see prices soar in the cayman islands. You thought things were bad now…..Fosters, Hurleys, Kirks to name a few…you think owners will not pass this on to the consumers????

      • Ha foo says:

        That’s why we need to boycott those business that is not willing to pay a fair wage.just don’t support thier business.we have a choice to shop at places that do hire caymanians.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is BS. The bottom line is that it is not slavery. There are people that work three jobs just to make ends meet. There are people that own these businesses and in order to profit set the salaries according to what it takes. A person flipping a burger is not worth a 12.00 an hour salary. Do this and the consumer will be made to absorb the difference. Then because of the increase less people will eat at that burger house and it will go under. Businesses are in business to make profit, not offer employment. That is a bi-product.

    • Anonymous says:

      this is greed 7:53 and it must backfire (history)

      • Anonymous says:

        Bottom line is most people who DESIRE to work do so, and if they can string a sentence together, demonstrate work ethic, they will exceed the minimum wage from the get go, or in short order. You cannot elevate by compulsory measures, the under-educated nor the self entitled. History also has proven that hard work, determination, and not always , education, yields rewards. The people earning at the upper middle top and higher have put forth some real effort, in some way, in order to achieve where they are. Some were born into better situations then others, but that is not an issue here. Forcing a minimum wage is just stealing from the rich to give a hand out to the poor. There is no real argument in favor for locals to force this. Any local that has ambitious thoughts maybe under paid, but for certain can find employment above the proposed. The issue is here, that they CHOOSE not to. From what has been written,most want to make the better off, pay for the poor, and make the better off work harder. E.g.. clean the house, pay for daycare, cook and work etc. Unfortunately throughout history there have been class systems. Our present disease around the world of trying to change this by force is a failure on its face.

  6. Are they really serious over at Cayman Compass?!

    Today’s editorial totally dismissed the importance of the minimum wage debate in the Cayman Islands, yet buried deeper in its own publication is an excellent report (thanks to Carole Winker) leading with a headline of “Minimum wage may affect third of workers”.

    Make up your mind, Cayman (nee Caymanian) Compass, because you’re speaking out of both sides of your propaganda-tainted mouth.

    (The leadership over there reminds me of that guy in middle school that would tell all the other guys horrible things about the girl he secretly liked (e.g. she’s poor, she smells funny, her family can’t afford deodorant), just so they would all shun her only to swoop in thereafter and “wife her up” for himself.)

    A truly despicable and ruthless entity – to the point of shamelessness.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Who owns the fast food restaurants? Where do they work?

  8. anonymous says:

    If 180 per week is slavery then a lot going on in Cayman

  9. Anonymous says:

    Out of interest, what “anecdotal evidence” is there that wages are overstated on up to 90% of work permit forms and why would there even be an incentive to do that when there is zero concern among the Immigration authorities that expats are being paid too little and so much concern that the well-paying jobs should go to Caymanians?

    • Anonymous says:

      Ask the domestics who are promised certain wages per hour, overtime at time and a half, health insurance, paid vacations, and other benefits reflected on their work permit applications, whether they are in fact receiving it.

      • Anonymous says:

        I do not have a full time helper but I do have a lady who comes in twice a month for days work. I have an 1100 sq ft 2 bed 2 bath apt. She does not wash clothes, dishes or any cooking. She is also not taking care of my son. I pay her $65.00 per day. She will normally come by 8am and by 1pm she is chillaxing and ready to go. I never understood this because when I do my own cleaning I’m not finished until the late hours in the night. I still have to go over a lot of what she does but it helps that she’s taken the edge off. Now, if minimum wage is enacted will this lady who for two years is always finished by 1pm suddenly have extended hours?? My point – some ppl will try to take advantage of this.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Spot on – this survey just proves Cayman’s economy is driven by the 5000 odd folks involved in the financial sector . Take the banks and alw firms out of the equation and you will be left with no one to consume which means no revenue through duty fee. The rosy outlook of Alden is indeed a falacy

  11. Anonymous says:

    Our sister’s aide is paid $1K including $175 for health insurance. She has all her meals and snacks; a bed with bath; use of laundry facilities with washing liquid; dryer sheets or softener; she has a full 24 hour day off; she’s paid 2 weeks vacation and on Valentines, her birthday and Christmas she’s included and treated as a family member. As well on weekends she’s given a choice of special items of her choice such as pizza or jerk pork or chicken. She doesn’t contribute to $200 a week groceries; she doesn’t pay Water Co or CUC. So is that considered slavery?

  12. Anonymous says:

    WOW………Like we didn’t know this already? Really? But I wonder why only CERTAIN subjects always make the headlines? One we’re conveniently side-stepping and pushing further under the rug, hoping it doesn’t creep out, is the SOCIAL IMPACT these wages have on the living conditions of our people!! Do a report/study on that and then it will give a true picture of exactly what this evil does! If BOTH parents with 3 children are employed under these SLAVE-LABOR wages pray tell me how do this family survive w/o DCFS (Social Services) hand-outs? Think about it? OR they assist themselves by illegally selling cigarettes or liqour or drugs!! IF we are honest with ourselves 3/4 of the breakdown of the FAMILY unit; the increase of teen pregnancies; the truancy etc is at an all-time high is linked to the minimum wage! But we allow WORK PERMITS to be issued for $3.50 per hour? How can they even pay for a one-bed or efficiency apt on those wages; buy food; pay CUC; pay water co; and of course keep the remittance companies ie Western Union or Money Express in business and build a home in their country? That’s why SO many of the women are linked to causing rifts in marriages; why they marry the older widows and low-lifes who have never been married and it goes on and on and on……Like a stuck record!! SO PLEASE admit that SLAVE-WAGES does nothing for your business as the end-effect is where you the business owners along with the rest of society, PAYS DEARLY because as Mama and Daddy taught us there really is no such thing as FREE lunch. After all you may send your child to school w/o lunch and they can get food BUT other members of society PAID someway to provide that lunch!! Let’s be TRUTHFUL in regards what a rip-off these slave wages does to our society!!

    • Rick says:

      Very true, except that your child can also find more creative ways to pay for their lunch, which are not necessarily in their best interest.

      We also mostly use the future tense to describe or characterize what is going to happen if we continue to ignore this problem as a society. The truth is, it is happening now, and to all of us. We are just too blind or callous to admit.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Cayman has a third of its workers on minimum wage and Marco and Alden is reading the situation wrong about growth over the next 5 years. The financial sector is the bloodline of Cayman – contributing 55% of the GDP ( check previous research reports including ESO) …. and Cayman’s finance growth is a thing of the past with 300 of 500 off-shore class B banks closing over the last decade and now major class A banks like HSBC , RBC, Caledonian, Scotia retrenching and closing doors. If 50 % of the GDP is shrinking then building 5 hotels without back up infrastructure is not going to solve the problem. Hotels employ people on minimum wage – employment transition from the financial sector based to tourism based will be a social and economic disaster. PPM please do not paint unrealistic pictures to win the next election, instead you should focus on how to tame the rapid growth of foreign workers doing admin and support jobs in the finance industry. Like the Bahamians, Caymanians will also have to accept hotel jobs in the future but that day is still some ways off. When that happens Caymanians will have a much lower standard of living and there will be gated communities just like in the Bahamas- trsut me I have lives there for a brief period. Dart’s real estate layout was designed to be gated and it will be when the majority of Caymianians cannot afford to go there. A concerted social effort is required to fix Cayman holistically not through spurts of duty fee income on the back of monopolies building mega structures. Even there we are exempting the duty through waivers. Health city and its many promises come to mind. Economic plans alone will create a criminal society of haves and have-nots and we’r halfway there already.

  14. Anonymous says:

    If I pay my helper CI 180. 00 per week, and she gets free room and board plus all the food she can eat free, is that “cheap labor”?

    I’m curious to know because her wages are totally hers to do whatever with. No need to worry about electricity bill, food, rent or any other living expense.

    • Anonymous says:

      at 180 per week …. she can not afford to do anything so if you provide the a living for her hopefully she/he is happy and content

      • Anonymous says:

        What about pension & medical benefits? If those benefits are not included then she is getting less than $160.00 /week. No benefit to our society at all as she will send all to home leaving her with nothing for her personal hygiene and relaxation. A-all you get is a very disgruntled nanny, even though she appears happy.

      • Anonymous says:


    • Anonymous says:

      No,it is slavery!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Slavery?! Either you are uneducated or just plain ignorant to the meaning of the word!

        • Anonymous says:

          How many Hours a day is she working for?
          Is she on call 24 hours?
          How do you sleep at night paying someone that little?
          Would you work for that amount?

    • Anonymous says:

      By “free room and board” does that also mean they are on call 24 hrs. a day minus overtime?

      • Dreadlock Holmes says:

        Free room and board does indeed mean they are “on call” twenty- four hours. Without any need for additional over time, and supposedly, if you have children, this arrangement allows you to go out in the evening. And always having someone available. Do they have a pension plan? Medical benefits?
        It seems to me for this wage you got a good deal.

        • Anonymous says:

          Why make such assumptions if you don’t know what is happening in that person’s household. I don’t know about the other person but my helper has insurance and she spends most nights with her bf even though she has her own room. I don’t bother her for anything and if I can’t take my child with me in the evening, I don’t go anywhere. Everyone assumes that a person that has a helper goes out partying. She only has to buy personal items such as toothpaste for herself as everything else is paid for including electricity and water. My father and I figured out that a live in helper costs about 4 or 5 times their salary and that was about 20 years ago.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes it is. Why not pay a living wage.

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