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The Editor Speaks: Minimum wage is the hot topic

Colin WilsonwebDo we really need a minimum wage?

There is much talk of the exploitation of some of our workforce, especially foreign workers, and the Progressives (PPM) campaigned heavily on introducing a minimum wage. The PPM is now the government but the Minister for Labour is Tara Rivers, the Coalition for Cayman (C4C), who campaigned against a minimum wage.

At the Government Press Briefing on Tuesday (4) this anomaly was raised and Premier Alden McLaughlin was quick to jump in and say whilst opinions may differ they would not amount to a split in the ranks. He likened it to a family. No one agrees all the time but everyone moves on and is still part of the family.

Hmmm. He obviously cannot identify with some of the family disputes I witnessed back in England where members still don’t speak to one another.

I am not convinced bringing in a minimum wage now would be good. We are in a recession and everyone is struggling unless you are in offshore finance and banking. Bringing in a minimum wage will have no effect there.

Elsewhere, the effect will be felt. With profit margins so narrow, if in fact there are any, bringing in a minimum wage now could be disastrous.

It is no use having a minimum wage when there are no jobs. That means no wages at all.

I happened to be listening to one of the talk shows recently, something I try to avoid, but I was waiting for something else to blast the airwaves and couldn’t remember the time it would be on. Actually I had already missed it! So I listened to people who were mainly (there was one against) pro a minimum wage. Not one of them offered any ideas as to how in this economy (that is stagnant if not declining) an employer pays for the increase in his labour force wage bill. The interviewer didn’t ask them either.

The only solution an employer has, if he is forced to pay a worker more and to try and stay in business, is to reduce his staff. This means more unemployment and more strain on the government’s social services bill.

Aha, you say, it will mean the foreign worker will leave. It doesn’t mean there will be a job for a Caymanian unless he can work twice as fast as the foreigner he has replaced. Plus that foreign worker has contributed by a work permit fee, some of his wages being spent here as he has to eat, and he has to find somewhere to sleep. This nonsense of all his wages going overseas is just not true. Does a Caymanian spend all his money here in Cayman?

When slavery, thank goodness, was over, the cost of living rose, but at that time Britain and the other European countries that were exploiting this dreadful trade were experiencing a booming economy. It was not felt.

If Cayman were experiencing a booming economy I would applaud such a move. Yes, let’s bring a minimum wage in but only when the time is right and it most definitely isn’t now.


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