Miller to press on OMOV

| 09/01/2014

(CNS): The independent member for North Side has singled out two issues that he will be pushing hard for during 2014. First is his intention to immediately press government to meet its commitment to deliver on one man-one vote in single member constituencies before this financial year is out. Ezzard Miller told CNS that, along with the introduction of a minimum wage, the changes to the elections law need to be implemented sooner rather than later. Therefore, he said, he and his legislative colleague from East End, Arden McLean, will be presenting two private member’s motions when the Legislative Assembly meets later this month to push government’s hand on both issues.

Talking about the need to make the changes to the election law as soon as possible, Miller said he expected the government to welcome the motion but he had been disappointed with the “shocking absence” of this and the minimum wage issue in the government’s legislative agenda presented during the budget debate for this year.

“The election campaign took place less than one year ago and every person elected in the current government, including the C4C members, campaigned in favour of one man, one vote, in single member constituencies almost as a matter of urgency,” he said. “On that basis, coupled with the fact that there are members of Cabinet who launched their political career with the OMOV campaign and who got elected … as a result of that involvement ahead of the referendum in 2012,I expect this motion to be welcomed with open arms at the next meeting,” he added.

So, keen to ensure that the necessary amendments are made to the election law as quickly as possible, Miller said that if the necessary legislation is not on the floor of the LA before 30 June, he was prepared to take on the necessary time and expense of tabling his own private member’s bill. This would see Miller finance the cost of drawing up the necessary amendments to the legislation and present government with a ready to use white paper.

while the next election may be well over three years away, an unexpected by-election could happen at any time if a serving MLA were forced to step down, chose to resign or pass away.

The Elections Office has said it is ready to implement single member constituencies but there are some boundary issues to be addressed over constituencies bordering George Town and Bodden Town. Kearney Gomez, the former supervisor of elections, had stressed a preference for the maximum time line possible for an education and awareness campaign about that, as well as the general changes that OMOV in single member constituencies would bring for voters.

Miller said the time was now and he would do everything in his power to drive the necessary legislative changes within the next few months.

All of the PPM and Coalition for Cayman members, as well as both Miller and McLean, have expressed their full support for the change, even if at this stage no time line has been spelled out by the government. Even Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush has accepted the fact that the new voting system is coming, which leaves the government with no reason to postpone the legislation.

However, when it comes to minimum wage Miller has a greater struggle on his hands. Despite support from key PPM members of government during the election campaign, Coalition for Cayman member Tara Rivers, who is now the labour minister, has expressed her opposition to it. Nevertheless, given the support of Premier Alden McLaughlin, Miller said his motion on this issue should also be welcomed by the government.

“The premier is on record as saying that not introducing the minimum wage is one of his major regrets,” Miller told CNS this week, noting that McLaughlin was now in a position to put that right.

The independent member said he expected there would need to be some research into the lowest possible wage rate. Acknowledging that this would not be high, he pointed to government’s lowest hourly rate of around $7 as a probable starting point. But whatever was considered reasonable, he said, it was important to implement the rate as a social policy and deliver a message.

The North Side member was convinced, he said, that the way the labour law was written, as a result of pressure from the business community and its lobby groups, had created difficulties for successive governments, who have all supported minimum wage in principle, enacting the necessary changes to the law.

He said Cayman needed to put a stop to unscrupulous employers who know full well that paying someone $4 an hour makes it impossible for them to live in Cayman. Miller said that the lack of a minimum wage had driven down wages over the years to such an extent that more and more people were forced into poverty and had fuelled the increase in foreign cheap labour, which is at the heart of local unemployment.

“Businesses should not be allowed to rely so heavily on constantly reducing their labour costs to provide a source of profit,” he told CNS.

Illustrating his point, Miller explained that in 1969 a bartender at the Holiday Inn was paid around $8 per hour and allowed to keep the tips he earned. At that time the cost of a beer was a $1. Today, he said, at the Ritz Carlton, which sits on the site of the former Holiday Inn, beer now costs $8 while jobs for bartenders are advertised at $4 per hour with just a share of gratuities. 

“There is something very wrong with that equation,” Miller said, as he called on government to seize the opportunity to do what government after government since the 1980's has been unable to do.

Category: Politics

Comments (24)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I'm not sure how they can inforce a minimum wage. When I worked at a recently closed travel agency, I knew that the owner put a much higher wage on my work permit than what I was actually paid.

    I also know of more than one instance where she hired from overseas with a certain $$ salary but when the employee got their first paycheck, the amount was lower.

    and

    Yay OMOV..

  2. Anonymous says:

    What needs to be changed are these two not able to run for a seat anymore! that is what needs to be changed!

  3. Anonymous says:

    My thining is that a living wage may be better than minimum wage, but either way CIG will need to keep cost down. If they do not employers most likely will increase cost and it would defeat the purpose.

    Also the law will have to be enforced and be consistent, which means random spot checks of employee files etc… and possibly bank accounts info to see how  much is really being paid to the employee. 

    On paper employers can say that they are paying the specified wage required by law and  actually be paying less. Many expats will accept less and go along with the $4.00 per hour because they want and need a job desperately.

    This needs to be addressed and not be put on back burner again and again. It has to be thought out from every angle so it is  fair, sound and sensible.  And then enforced so it is effective as possible.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I would agree to a minimum wage provided that govt reduces cost of doing business by an equivalent amount such that the cost of doing business will not increase. After all, the argument for minimum wage is that Unemployed Caymanians would accept employment at higher wage rates.  Mr Miller has made it clear that unemployed caymanians cannot accept the current low wages as one of the main reasons for the high unemployment rate among Caymanians. Therefore, increase in minimum wages should result in lower social assistance payments to the unemployed. Since cost of doing business has been increased by virtue of the introduction of minimum wage, and in an effort to keep consumer costsdown, the govt should pass on the savings in social assistance to those businesses who employ minimum wage workers.  

    If breaks are not extended, we risk higher prices, les startup businesses or businesses closing resulting in further unemployment.  Most small businesses are barely coping with the current cost of doing business. Forcing them to increase their costs higher may result in closure if they are not able to pass those costs to the consumer. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    Was this #1 on the ppm campaign list? Once they’re in they forgot how they got there & what they promised! Wp

  6. Just Commentin' says:

    Wow!  Wizzard Miller strikes again! His take on preparation for enacting a minimum wage is to do research on the "lowest possible wage rate"!  Did I read this right? The lowest possible wage rate? Rather than pushing for a sustainable wage – a Living Wage –  that will permit people to live a dignified life, Miller is touting the lowest possible wage.

    Hey, North-siders? Did you catch that? Your Wizzard sure is shining this time!  Politics first – people second. How sick is that?  We need to replace the antiquated concept of "minimum wage" with the more modern, fair, progressive and humanitarian concept of "Living Wage". To aim for less is a mere token, a political gesture. To make paying the "lowest possible wage" into a law is a move that will lead to enshrining poverty into the very law of the land rather than eliminating it.

    The fervent press to pass the Conservation Law is very telling about where certain people's priorities lay:    Because of the dedicated efforts of Cabinet, we now have a law that is designed to ensure a reasonable and sustainable standard of protection for fish, birds, insects, and other critters.  Somehow I don't see this as a great victory for Caymanians nor an advancement for the people of theseislands seeing as how  the poor, near enslaved sectors of our work force still toil for a pittance that in many cases is not enough to put food on the table. Where is the law to ensure their reasonable standard of living? Where, Mr. Panton? Lawmakers, where? 

    Yeah! Real great job, Panton et al! You pushed to protect animals but still have not made any meaningful advancement toward ensuring that human beings in these islands are afforded the dignity of earning a Living Wage.  Yeah! Sure. Let's all jump for joy.  Animals first – people second. 

    The National Trust was very pro-active and vocal about trying to get the NCL passed.  I wonder if they will be equally vocal and rabid about pushing for a Living Wage?  You may ask what this has to do with the Trust. Simple. Supposedly one of the Trust's mandates is preservation of Caymanian culture.  Right?  Poverty and living on welfare handouts is as much detrimental to our culture and against our traditions  as is bulldozing mangroves is detrimental to the coastal environment.  But then again maybe most of 'em prefer animals over people anyway.

    Instead of basking in victory, Panton and every other member of the House, and the National Trust, and Ezzard Miller, should be hanging their head in shame. In my opinion they all have pretty crummy priorities.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Let's see some possibilities on other side:

     

    Implementing a minimum wage will force businesses and persons who simply take out bogus work permits to reconsider increasing a labou supply artificially

    There may be lay-offs in unskilled workers, but these are mainly from Jamaica and Philipines so not a hardship on natives. (just a reality folks, if people are so concerned about their fellow men think it's time to address policies and politicians in that country, Cayman can't hire everyone).

    At higher wages greater opportunity for young to seek jobs and earn money to assist with career goals and those who are not motivated/able to seek more skilled jobs will be able to have increased disposable income.

     

    If there is a minimum wage per industry, the legal department for example could increase salaries and attract locals and diverse, competent personnel versus simply hiring from same 2-3 Caribbean countries where the current salaries and beenfits in our legal department is more attractive than in their respective countries.

     

    A minimum wage followed by (1) enforecement of immigration laws, specifically addressing bogus work permits and (2) regulating the trade and skilled industry so that Caymanians who actually spend the time and money to be trained are not being unfairly ran out of the market (need for anti-trust legislation).

    Good luck Mr Miller…now if only the message is heard and messenger not attacked

  8. Anonymous says:

    minimum wage???…..miller realy wants to drive the last nail into the cayman coffin……

    • Anonymous says:

      Minimum wage?  What about allthe talk about pension only for caymanians , why should employers pay pension for people WHO ARE TAKING THEIR MONEY OUT OF HERE?????

      • Anonymous says:

        Um, so when they become Caymanian they have pensions, and so theta expats are no cheaper than Caymanians to employ, and because it is the right thing to do?

      • Anonymous says:

        I thought your third question mark really helped your argument but, wow, by the fifth one I was convinced.

      • Anonymous says:

        Becuase is pays for the retired Caymanians, the vast majority of the people will never see this money..

  9. Anonymou says:

    Once again the tail tries to wag the dog.

     

    • At Least says:

      Well at least Ezzard is trying to get something for us poor people, all I seen Alden do is sit by the bar up in Country since May

      • Anonymous says:

        Alden been in Country all his life, not just Since May. We all know that and we approve. We voted for him knowing that so you are not bringing us news. Find something sensible to talk about.

      • Anonymous says:

        Poor people are so good at moaning.  

  10. Anonymous says:

    All will happen  with the introduction of a minimum wage is that the cost to employers will go up so they will increase their products and services to compensate…AND…the cost of living will go up taking any increase the employee received away….this happens everytime.

    • SSM345 says:

      Introduction of a minimum wage in the current environment will do absolutely nothing other than increase the cost of doing business, which in turn is going to cripple the consumer (as everyone knows current prices can be equated to extortion) and unemployment will increase.

      Creating a minimum wage is not going to stop those can afford to hire an expat from continuing to do so.

       

    • Anonymous says:

      It will also result in higher paid expats…Not create morejobs for Caymanians as some people believe..

    • Anonymous says:

      No one should be expected to work for $4.00 per hour. Heck the guy who cuts my grass gets CI$10.00 per hour, and sometimes I give him lunch too. No, I amnot rich, but I could not let him work in the heat for $4,.00 p.h. My heart is not so hard.

      • SSM345 says:

        No one should work for $4hr?

        Really? Ever heard of "commissions"? Or "tips"? Would you rather pay someone $10hr and the employer keep thetip / commission?

        People who do not work in a "service idustry" position i.e. bartender, watersports, have no one to blame or hold accountable other than their Caymanian employers who treat them like slaves or those incharge of granting work permits allowing such slavery.

        But accountability does not exist in Cayman, so instead the EE Hot Air Balloon would rather kill the economy.

        Good ole' Caymanian Commonsense from the sacred vessell.

        • Anonymous says:

          There is no need to exclude commissions or tips from the minimum wage paid. But if the tips or commissions are not there, then the employer has to make up the difference. This happens in the US all of the time, and the employee files taxes on the income which includes tips and commissions.

      • Anonymous says:

        The guy who cuts my grass gets paid much more than $10 an hour but obviously he is not doing that for 8 hours a day 5-6 days a week so that is no way to determine what should be the wage for a full-time worker. It would be ridiculous to expect say a full-time domestic helper to be paid $10 per hour (10 x 8 x 25 = CI$2,000) when many store clerks, filing clerks, receptionists etc. who are working in profitable businesses are not paid that.      

    • Anon says:

      Don't forget that with lack of enforcement many will still receive 4 dollars per hour while the cost of products and services will go up resulting from increase in price levels from those businesses which comply with the law.  Foster food fair will comply and food prices will go up while that security guard will still receive 4 dollars per hour putting him into further poverty.  

      Those businesses that comply will be at a competitive disadvantage. Remember how many companies still fail to provide pension and health benefits to employees?

      How will this law be enforced Mr. Miller given the current CS staffing freeze?  How many of our unemployed Caymanians will accept 7 per hour? Let's see the economic analysis of such proposed measure!