A long term policy of setting minimum wage for 16 and 17-year-olds at 90% of the minimum wage for adults has been approved by the States.
Deputies approved a minimum wage of £9.55 per hour for adults and £8.95 for 16 and 17-year-olds, with the exception of apprentices.
Committee for Employment and Social Security President, Deputy Peter Roffey, said that the proposal represented the third of five steps in working towards the States’ target of a minimum wage which represents 60% of median earnings.
Pictured: Deputy Neil Inder said that "there is no difference between a 16-year-old and 18-year-old putting a can of beans through a scanner".
Deputy Roffey explained that, if not for delays due to the covid pandemic, the 60% target of £10.60 per hour would have been reached in October this year. This has been delayed two years.
“When we reach our target of 60% in October 2024, the minimum wage will be £10.60 per hour, plus any percentage increase in median earnings over the next two years,” he said.
“Since the original target of 60% of median earnings was set, many territories including the UK, Isle of Man and Jersey, have adopted a more ambitious target of a minimum wage reflecting 66% of median earnings. Personally, I think there is a strong case for doing so, but that is a debate for another day.”
Deputy Roffey advised the Assembly that the proposals, which were ultimately approved, were “significantly above inflation”.
Pictured: Deputy Sasha Kazantseva-Miller said that 18-year-olds on the minimum wage "will struggle to live on this island".
He explained that the proposed increases were based on median wage, not inflation.
“If inflation went up by 5%, but median earnings went up by 10%, the proposed increase would be well above inflation,” he said.
“Conversely, if inflation went up 10% and median earnings by 5%, it could be a proposal that the minimum wage would be increased by less than the rate of inflation.”
Deputy Chris Le Tissier, who returned to the Assembly yesterday after a year’s suspension, questioned whether the minimum wage approved was too low.
“Guernsey is a very expensive place to live and there is a shortage of labour. If businesses cannot pay a decent living wage then they need to go out of business and people will easily find new employment,” he said.
Deputy Roffey agreed with Deputy Le Tissier that the minimum wage approved was no high enough. However, the debate focused around whether 16 and 17-year-olds should be paid the same as adults.
Pictured: Deputy Andy Taylor said there was "a wide range of abilities" in 16 and 17-year-olds.
Deputy Victoria Oliver commented: “When you have two people doing exactly the same job where one is an adult and one is a child, it is unfair that there is a difference in pay. It’s the same job.”
Deputy Andy Taylor drew on his experience as an employer. “At that age [16 and 17], from my own experience, there is a very wide range of abilities,” he said.
“As the minimum wage rate went up, it meant that it was no longer viable for me to employ them [16 and 17-year-olds]. I often needed two 16-year-olds to do the work of one adult”.
Deputy Peter Ferbrache concurred that “two people can do the same job at different abilities”.
“At 16 or 17 I picked roses. A gentleman at 60 could pick two and a half rows to my one row. If I had been paid the same as him it would have been ridiculous,” he said.
Deputy Ferbrache further commented that, if the minimum wage was the same was the same for adults and 16 and 17-year-olds, that employers “might as well employ someone more experienced”.
Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache said that he pays his employees above minimum wage.
Deputy Simon Vermulen, who echoed Deputy Ferbrache’s comments through his own experience of picking tomatoes, expressed that is “not a support of a minimum wage”.
Despite his aversion, he commented: “Perhaps youngsters should be paid the same as adults. If it [the minimum wage] is set lower for youngsters, it doesn’t stop the employer doing just that.”
“I would hate to find that island in a situation where people are put off employing young people because it’s too expensive. You want the right person for the job.”
Deputy Sasha Kazantseva-Miller believed deputies “should not get too caught up by the exact difference” between the minimum wage proposals.
“If we are getting too caught up then we are missing the point. We need to pay people fairly to afford to live on this island, ” she said.
“Hopefully there are not many people over 18 who are on minimum wage. I hope it is a small proportion, because the problem will otherwise be that they will struggle to live on this island,” she said.
“We are in a job crisis; one of the best ways to solve this is to encourage more people to work. If you pay a fair wage, it gives young people an incentive to out and seek work."
Pictured: Deputy Simon Vermulen said his first job paid 5p per bucket of tomatoes picked. "Did I need to be paid the same as the guy who had worked there 40 years? No, I don't think I did," he said.
Referencing a lack of available figures of the number of islanders on minimum wage, also acknowledged by Deputy Roffey, Deputy Neil Inder said that the issue came down to “sense and feeling”.
“I don’t think anyone is on a minimum wage. It’s really a judgment call; what does it feel like, what does it smell like, is it the right thing to do?,” he said.
“I think the policy letter reflects the view of industry and the committee. A lot of this is about feeling; I think the policy letter feels right.”
Pictured top: Committee for Employment and Social Security President, Deputy Peter Roffey.
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