EDITORIAL: Establishing A Minimum Wage – What Will It Be?

The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

For decades the establishment of a minimum wage has been touted in Anguilla by various governments. To date no government has delivered. Will the Anguilla Progressive Movement (APM) be any different?

The Fair Labour Standards Act of 1988, which was replaced in January 2019 by the Labour (Relations) Act, 2018 made provision for a Minimum Wage Advisory Committee to be established and to recommend minimum rates of wage. This provision is also reflected in the Labour (Relations) Act, 2018.

For more than three decades our laws have provided the mechanism to be used to establish a minimum wage. Still, no minimum wage has been established. Is it for want of effort, or is it that the establishment of a minimum wage is not as simple a matter as some persons may believe?

One point of discussion has always been whether an across the board minimum wage would be established, and how practical that would be. The Labour (Relations) Act has now clearly set out in section 78, the options available when establishing a minimum wage. It provides: –

“Fixing of minimum wage
78. (1) The Executive Council may, by Order, published in the Gazette, fix a minimum wage fo r—
(a) employees generally; or
(b) any class of employees in a particular industry or undertaking or trade or occupation, and such minimum wage shall be not less than the minimum wage specified under paragraph (a).
(2) A Minimum Wage Order may contain such provisions as the Executive Council thinks fit and may fix different minimum wages for employees of different categories of undertakings engaged in the same employment.”

It is now clear that a minimum wage applicable to all employees is possible. Also possible is a minimum wage for a particular trade, occupation or industry, as well as a minimum wage for different categories of employees engaged in the same type of employment. Which will it be for Anguilla?

The situation may be compounded by the call by some persons for a ‘livable wage’ rather than a ‘minimum wage’. Is there a real distinction? What standard of living is a minimum wage expected to achieve? What standard of living is a livable wage expected to achieve? Persons have different desires and aspirations. How do we determine what is essential for a person’s wellbeing, and what will be an acceptable quality? Housing of what standard is acceptable? What is the minimum wage that a person must receive if that standard of housing is to be affordable? Then we have the ultimate question – Can everyone who needs a particular service afford to pay what has been designated as the minimum wage for that service? What if he or she can’t?

The posing of so many questions, without clear answers, might be an indication of why we have gone for more than three decades without an established minimum wage. Finding a minimum wage that is acceptable to the majority of the population, while still being affordable to all the persons who will require services, is difficult.

Will the APM Government make the difficult happen, and if it does what form will it take?