News Release: Hamilton, Bermuda, Monday, March 4, 2019 – The Ministry of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports today announced that it will shortly be setting up a Wage Commission to consult with key stakeholders regarding the implementation of a living/minimum wage.

This follows the tabling of a report by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee (JSC) last year on The Establishment of a Living/Minimum Wage Regime which listed the creation of a Wage Commission as one of its recommendations.

The Commission will be made up of a body of experts, with social partners from the Trade Union Congress and employer groups. The Commission will function as an independent authority, responsible for implementing the living wage rate.

The Commission will be charged with establishing the regulatory regime around the implementation of the statutory wage scheme based upon best practice.

The Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports, Lovitta Foggo said this Throne Speech initiative is a priority for her Ministry. 

“Legislation is currently in the works to enable the creation of the Commission,” said Minister Foggo. “The implementation of a minimum/living wage is something we are progressing.

“We want to remind the public that the living wage conversation will soon be coming to them. To that end, there will be three upcoming town hall meetings hosted by members of the JSC and others in the community, to provide more information and conversation on the topic to the general public. Details of the meetings will be announced shortly.

“The creation of a living wage isn’t unique to Bermuda,” Minister Foggo explained. “Most modern, developed countries have a minimum/living wage regime. In fact, approximately more than 90% of countries designated as International Labour Organization (ILO) member states currently have a statutory wage scheme of some sort. It is deemed unconscionable in today’s society to have people working two or three jobs, who are still barely able to put food on the table.

“People are trapped in a poverty cycle and it trickles down to every aspect of life; your family life is affected, your health is affected, society is affected – there are social costs to everyone. The chronic stress that accompanies poverty has been linked to a wide array of adverse conditions, from maternal health problems to tumor growth. US studies have linked higher minimum wages to decreases in low birth-weight babies, a reduction in child-neglect reports, fewer unmet medical needs among low-skilled workers, lower rates of teen alcohol consumption and declines in teen births. When people live hand-to-mouth, even a small setback can quickly spiral into a major life upset. For example, an unexpected medical bill could lead to that person being unable to pay their rent which, in turn, may lead to them being evicted and then finding themselves homeless.  

“Considerable evidence-based documents have outlined the many benefits realised by both the employers and employees in countries where a minimum/living wage have been instituted. Modest wage increases have a profound impact on people’s wellbeing and happiness, both in the workplace and at home.  Best practices speak to this and the overwhelming evidence has shown that it is a win-win to have a living wage. The great Nelson Mandela famously said, ‘In this new century, millions of people in the world’s poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free.

“In short, we need to stop the exploitation of our workers. A living wage regime will place Bermuda where it should be – on equal footing with other countries.

The mandate of the JSC was to research the feasibility of the establishment of a minimum/living wage regime, and make recommendations to the House of Assembly.  The JSC concluded that establishing a statutory wage floor to support those who are economically insecure is vitally necessary.

 An excerpt from the JSC report said: “Incipient poverty, the erosion of the middle class and growing despair have led to charities and assistance programmes of various types being overwhelmed as growing numbers of Bermudians, including children, do without the economic necessities required to lead productive and fulfilling lives.”