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‘No Way On God’S Earth’ Is Livable Wage $2,625

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Peter Goudie

• Tripartite vice-chair blasts ‘astounding’ UoB findings

• But unions hail results as minimum wage vindication

• Research figures ‘a rabbit we will continue to chase’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The National Tripartite Council’s vice-chair yesterday blasted “there’s no way on God’s green earth” that Nassau’s monthly living wage is $2,625 as unions hailed the finding as vindicating their stance.

Peter Goudie, who also heads the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s labour division head, told Tribune Business the authors of a University of the Bahamas (UoB) study which found New Providence’s living wage was almost triple the existing minimum wage “have to be out of their minds” and “absolutely dreaming”.

Warning that The Bahamas “cannot afford” such an increase, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as “a whole bunch of businesses” would be forced to close, Mr Goudie also questioned why such “astounding” findings were never discussed with the private sector or other stakeholders before their publication.

Trade union leaders, though, argued that the research backed their long-held position that the $210 weekly minimum wage is nowhere near sufficient to provide a decent standard of living and quality of life for workers in the lower reaches of the Bahamian workforce.

Bernard Evans, the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas (NCTUB) president, said the findings by a team from UoB’s Government and Public Policy Institute supported his argument that a livable wage - as opposed to a minimum wage - should be the true focus for policymakers and the National Tripartite Council.

However, he conceded that achieving the livable wages set out in the study will “not happen overnight” particularly since the economy is still trying to rebound from the twin blows of COVID-19 and Hurricane Dorian. Likening it to “a rabbit we will continue to be chasing”, Mr Evans said the findings nevertheless gave The Bahamas something to target and aspire to in coming years.

And Obie Ferguson, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) president, told this newspaper that the UoB report’s findings will give employers and the Government “greater appreciation” for why he is proposing a near 43 percent minimum wage hike to $300 per week.

The UoB study, dated September 30, 2020, and authored by Lesvie Archer, Olivia Saunders, Bridget Hogg, Vijaya Permual and Brittney Johnson, concluded that a living wage in New Providence and Grand Bahama is $2,625 and $3,550 per month respectively.

“Our gross living wage estimate for New Providence is 26 percent lower than the Grand Bahama living wage estimate, nearly 200 percent higher than the national minimum wage, 127 percent higher than 2013 poverty line and nearly 75 percent higher than the minimum wage hike proposed by a local union,” they wrote.

“Our living wage estimate for Grand Bahama is nearly 300 percent higher than the living wage, 200 percent higher than the 2013 poverty line and 140 percent higher than the minimum wage hike proposed by a local union.” The Bahamas’ private sector minimum wage, last increased following VAT’s introduction in 2015, is currently $210 a week.

Reacting to the findings, Mr Goudie blasted: “That is ridiculous. That is way ridiculous. I don’t know where they got their information from. I’d love to see it. No way on God’s green earth is that correct. It’s way above the poverty line.

“This country cannot afford that, number one. It’s a simple fact. The minimum wage is $210 a week, and if you translate that into their $600 [weekly livable wage for Nassau] you are talking about tripling the minimum wage. They have to be out of their minds. They’re dreaming, absolutely dreaming.

“I would like to see the information before I give a firm opinion, but there’s no way this country can afford it especially with COVID-19. This makes no sense. You will get a whole bunch of businesses that would close down. You triple the minimum wage and expect no fall-out?”

The minimum wage, though, is defined differently from the “livable wage” measure employed by the UoB study. It based its work on a model employed by Richard Anker, the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) living wage specialist, who defined a livable wage as one that can sustain a person’s “physical, emotional, social and cultural needs and that of their family beyond mere subsistence”.

Food and housing costs, based on a “nutritious diet” and “decent housing”, were factored into the calculations together with other daily living costs, while the research also drew on data from sources such as the 2019 Labour Market Information Newsletter; 2017 Labour Force Report; and 2016 Government of the Bahamas salary book.

Mr Goudie, though, queried why the findings were not discussed with the National Tripartite Council, private sector or trade unions before they were published. He said: “Get serious. Don’t come out and publish something that is so astounding without discussing it with anybody. This is beyond me. These guys must live in another world.”

However, the NCTU’s Mr Evans said of the research: “That’s what I’ve been saying all along. It’s high time somebody got the empirical data and came close to what is the cost of living in this country. Once we know what the living wage is we have a base target to get to.

“We won’t get to it immediately. We can’t jump to it. But I’m glad someone did the research. I always said we should not be looking at the minimum wage, and we should be looking at a livable wage. It gives us something to target by 2030 following the ILO’s Decent Work Country agenda.”

Mr Evans said he and other trade unionists had always been labelled as greedy, and simply seeking more money for their members, when they raised the livable wage issue in the past, but he argued that the UoB study’s findings now showed otherwise and that they were right to raise the issue.

He suggested the model could now be used to develop a living wage for each Bahamian island, pointing out that living costs were far more expensive on the Family Islands. Using Andros as an example, he argued that gasoline costs there are $2 higher than Nassau.

Acknowledging that the UoB findings were open to challenge, Mr Evans added: “We’re not advocating that this happen today. This will be something that we’re constantly chasing for years and years, trying to catch up, and we never get there.

“It’s a rabbit we will continually be chasing, but it’s good to have that knowledge and data. And we have something to strive for. The mere fact they have identified a livable wage for each island, we can put in building blocks and processes to get to that point.”

Mr Ferguson, meanwhile, noting that the UoB report pegs the livable wage at more than $600 and $800 per week for New Providence and Grand Bahama respectively, said: “Now the Government and the employers will very much appreciate the proposal we put forward from the labour movement.

“In my proposal with the community of the unified labour movement, we agreed $300 per week [minimum wage]. There are those who felt it excessive, but I was not proposing for that to come into effect at this time.

“I laid it on the table so everybody could get a good understanding and appreciation for it. We recognise the economy cannot at this time absorb the increase. That’s a fact. But we welcome these [UoB] figures that show how legitimate our proposal is.”

Comments

TimesUp 4 weeks, 1 day ago

To be fair it seemed like a good exercise that not many would have dared perform. I don't think it was solely aimed at blasting the minimum wage, it was to realize the income that is required to sustain a basic standard of living.

To argue someone earning minimum wage should expect to pay for an apartment and healthy food is arguably not the intended purpose.

The study can however help with all kinds of reasoning If we teach children what a livable wage is and means.

Maybe it will cause people to try to educate themselves when they realize leaving school with a D average and no skills with a minimum wage job is not going to support the lifestyle they desire.

Maybe it will help the young learn they cannot afford a thousand dollar phone or 3 year old car when they don't yet earn enough to eat fresh food.

Maybe it will help guide young future parents that they need to build themselves before welcoming a child into the world.

Minimum wage is meant as a start in the job market or a temporary income and its silly to think a study on a livable wage is an argument to increase the minimum wage

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Sickened 4 weeks, 1 day ago

That amount sounds about right to me but as a 'households' monthly income - one would hope that a household is made up of two parents - which we know if rarely the case here. Again, family planning has destroyed what could be a workable amount of income. Unfortunately, because we don't have many 'family's' in the Bahamas there is the need for the tather(s) to pay their own rent plus contribute to the mother's(s) rent and child(ren) rearing expenses.

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SP 4 weeks, 1 day ago

The Bahamas is the 6th most expensive country in the world to live. Can Peter Goudie even survive on $2,625.00 monthly? Ignore this selfish clown and raise the minimum wage!

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ThisIsOurs 4 weeks, 1 day ago

His remarks did sound incredibly massa-rish, give them the pig feet and snout etc...

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bogart 4 weeks, 1 day ago

@SP. The Bahamas not only 6th most expensive country in the world to live in but a few years ago in this part of the region the Bahamasas having the greatest widening income gap between the rich and poor. For many years the revealing and adverse data by govt and Opposition seems mutually remained silent mutually beneficial obviously, and the more per capita income was celebrated as success misleading as how good tings are, even as the lines for food before Covid were long in the streets.

This data were known for years by bankers and should have been advised by the govt top financial advisor the Central Bank. Recently, the govt found it necessary to create a number of hugely discounted land in subdivisions and duty free discounts for persons/professionals to be able to afford lower amount of loans to afford homes.

Mr. Goudie of the local businesses Chamber of Commerce be further alarmed as consumers by pass local merchandise shops and make purchases on internet to Amazon and other stores in the world.

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Emilio26 4 weeks ago

bogart maybe this will teach kids and young adults that leaving school without a high school diploma or GCSE's is like suicide.

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bogart 3 weeks, 6 days ago

...E. and just as sad is the leading to the lack of knowledge is the ...thou shall not steal....and the ...thou shall not kill...leading to the costs $100,000 armoured police cars service, two police in cars salary $18,000 each per year, $$$ in Courts, $in jail staff, $$$ for society in razor wires, burgular bars crime etc. Seems eack crime tieffing, murder etc just costs way way more than getting into areas finding solutions to this cycle.

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bahamianson 4 weeks, 1 day ago

People, get over yourselves. Every time a.causian makes a.remark , you cry racism. Stop your crap , pull up your boot straps and work for what you want. Stop having 5 children because you geel entitled. Stop putting your basket higher than you can reach. People call in on talk shows all the time and say racist things againt caucasians in our community, tjjngs caucasians dare not say. Blavks are racist against whites in the bahamas , then complain about racism in america, whatever.

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ThisIsOurs 4 weeks, 1 day ago

its not racist its classist. different things. he literally said why that family of 4 need 2500 a month to do? what they gonna do with all that money?thats too much for them, are you crazy?

What he could have said was, based on our prices today its possible... i have to review the numbers, but most businesses cant sustain those kinds of salaries. He would have made the same point without the classism

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ThisIsOurs 4 weeks, 1 day ago

also i think he misunderstood the study. the 2600 was not for a single individual. it was the total income of the household. so if mother and father or maybe mother and son each make 1500, they meet the living household wage threshold

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bogart 4 weeks, 1 day ago

@Bahamianson. The stop having 5 children, or 6 or more are extremely distressing situations to the mother, children, family and society. In many cases is the failures of victim parents, dysfunctional family, lack of good broughtupsy, school drop outs, church role christian education instead of getting the almighty dollar from people, delinquent gang influences, preying by wutless older nasty serial sweethearting men failure of society to catch and castrate, the female is not the only one an there must be the father or usually other fathers etcetc The tragic circumstances everyone inevitably is affected.

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Jjj2020 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Sounds conchy Joeish to me rolls eyes

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SP 4 weeks ago

Spoken like a true racist caucasian. This is the exact same sentiments white South Africans spewed during apartheid!

Now that the playing field is level and many white South Africans find THEMSELVES living in slums, suddenly it's not fare anymore.

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ThisIsOurs 4 weeks ago

it could be racist, maybe/maybe not, but its definitely classist. The weird thing is this is EXACTLY how DAguilar talks. dont give them too much and watch out they might tief something. I dont expect a rich man to speak like a poor man because you speak from your world view but it doesnt look to me like a rich white Bahamian thing, I dont know Brent Symonette's personal views but when he speaks in the HOA he does not sound like this.

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Lwells91 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Can we agree to disagree that the minimum wage does in fact need to increase...but there needs to significant economic development on the family islands as well as an income tax on those making north of $600,000 annually...Nassau and Grand Bahama do not make up the entirety of The Bahamas and I honestly believe many people (including myself) if given the chance under the right circumstances would leave Nassau and live on a family island.

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mandela 4 weeks, 1 day ago

When the slumlords charge up to $150.00 per week for rent ( $600 p.m ) and this is sometimes without indoor plumbing, the only food most person can afford is garbage because healthy food is priced beyond their reach, to say the least, I think at least 2/3 of the workforce salaries fall below the $2500. mark so that can tell that we may look like we living large when in fact 2/3 are catching hell and will have a hard time accumulating any kind of security or wealth legally.

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bogart 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Usually many use the 4 weeks to a month but the year has 52 weeks and 150 x 52 = 7,800 ÷ 150 = 650. Easily overlooked seems you too got steamed up, catching hell and the people paying us $210.wanting us to call it good times.

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SP 4 weeks ago

The Bahamas cost of living is much higher than Bermuda's. The average salary for jobs in Bermuda is $60,641 (BMD) per year or an hourly rate of $29 (BMD).

Who the hell can live on $210.00 a week? HOW?

Shameful!!!

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