PLP not interested in Living Wages Act, says ex-MP – The Royal Gazette
Created: April 07, 2022 10:01
A former MP has claimed the Progressive Labor Party has been taken over by right-wingers who have no interest in creating decent minimum wages.
Rolfe Commissiong said David Burt’s election promise to lower the cost of living and introduce a living wage was framed as a “vote winner” and that other members of his cabinet had no interest in his promotion.
He added: “When we talk about living wages, it’s a public policy imperative – it should have been done.
“In 2017, this was an important term for the Prime Minister. I can only assume he kicks the box on the road.
“They have to come to the table. They have already come up with a range of salary levels which categorizes the minimum wage. Where is it?”
Mr Commissiong said: “We have seen an increasing number of party members who are conservative, not so progressive and pro-labour.
“I would put the prime minister, former finance minister Curtis Dickinson, and Jason Hayward, minister of economics and labor, in that category.
“Is the party as progressive and pro-Labour as it has been in the more recent past? I do not think so.”
The broadside came less than a week after Mr Commissiong wrote an opinion piece for The Royal Gazette where he said the PLP had failed to improve the lives of those who earned the least.
Mr Commissiong, then the opposition PLP MP for Pembroke South East, tabled a motion in 2016 calling for a joint select committee to be set up to ‘review the effectiveness of establishing a living wage for Bermuda’ .
The One Bermuda Alliance said a joint select committee should be set up.
But the PLP came to power in July 2017 and Mr Commissiong tabled a second motion for a select joint committee.
The PLP said in its 2017 Speech from the Throne that establishing a minimum living wage was a priority.
The Cost of Living Commission, renamed the Prices Commission, would be created by statute in December 2017 – with Mr Commissiong installed as chairman.
The Living Wages report was tabled in the House of Assembly in July 2018.
The Bermuda Wages Commission was established in February 2020 and a report was tabled in the House of Assembly last May which offered three options for a minimum hourly rate – $13.20, $15.75 and 17.30 $.
Mr Commissiong said the talks had gone on too long and it had had a detrimental effect on society – especially black workers.
He added: “When I was in opposition I took the ball to the legislative front to bring the issue to the fore.
“I had noticed a trend that bothered me. From the late 1990s until today, you had an increasing number of employers in certain sectors of our economy — hotels, restaurants, hotels, construction and landscaping — who were hiring cheap foreign labor.
“This began to stagnate wage growth and led to lower wages, especially for black Bermudians who came out with a high school diploma or less who were struggling to earn a decent standard of living. In some cases, they received starvation wages.
“When I proposed to the House through a motion to approve the adoption of a living wage for Bermuda, it was in the middle of this period. We still see this trend continuing in a way that produces social damage.
Mr Commissiong said at least half of young men entering public high schools drop out and Bermuda’s business model leans towards hiring foreigners in certain sectors, which marginalizes black workers.
He added: “They don’t get a fair chance and what happens next? The illicit drug trade and the formation of gangs, which still affect us. »
He said the high cost of living had driven people off the island and too much emphasis had been placed on business benefits at the expense of workers.
Mr Commissiong said: “I firmly believe that a living wage will be an economic benefit – the more inclusive the economy, the better for everyone.
“We need to increase tax revenue incrementally to make sure companies pay their fair share, which is not the case now.
“Then we can eliminate payroll taxes and reduce customs duties, which will help improve the cost of living and reduce the burden on small and medium-sized businesses.”
Mr Commissiong said: “It’s not just a matter of social justice. It is a racial and moral question as well.