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Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 31.07.2013 (Article Archived on 28.08.2013)

(Part 3Debate on the Minimum Wages Bill)


(Part 3Debate on the Minimum Wages Bill)


By J.
Brock (FINN)


A meeting of legislative Assembly
took place in the Court and Assembly Chamber of the Town Hall at 0930hrs on
Thursday, 25 July 2013.  Present were the
Speaker, the Hon Mr Keith Biles, the Clerk of Assembly, Mrs Claudette Prior,
the Chief Executive, the Hon Mr Keith Padgett, the Attorney General Mr mark
Lewis, the Commander British Forces South Atlantic Islands Russell William La
Forte, CBE, MA, BA, RAF, Mrs Nicola Granger, the Financial Secretary, Mr Mark
Lewis, the Attorney General and MLAs Cheek, Elsby, Edwards, Hansen, Sawle and
Short.  MLAs Summers and Halford did not


Imagine you were a farmer and you
wanted to do some fencing and you wanted to employ some people to dig some post
holes for you and you employed a 6ft2in 17 year old strapping lad and you
employed a 5ft2in waif-like 18 year old woman. 
Generally, most people would think the 17 year old strapping lad would
do a far better job than the waif-like 5ft2in 18 year old girl but she would be
paid more than him, even though he might do 3 times as many holes in a day,
which to me seems discriminatory.


And to expand on that,
imagine  that 17 year old strapping lad
digging holes away in Camp, if it turned out he was dyslexic and the farmer
found out about that and reduced his pay to £2.80 instead of £3.10 per hour,
would that be acceptable? Absolutely not! 
Why should dyslexia stop somebody from doing the job?


And I think the same analogy – we won’t
accept some discrimination – if the job can be done the same – why should we
accept age discrimination?


If the holes can be dug by an 18
year old woman or a man of 16 – if the person can do the job they should be
paid the going rate.  And one has to remember
when we are talking about Minimum Wage, we are not talking about highly skilled
jobs or people with degrees – we are talking about work that is perhaps manual,
perhaps repetitive – it might be stacking shelves in warehouses and I don’t
believe that a 16 or 17 year-old would do a worse job than an 18 year old.


And again I come back to the point
- if a person can do the job he should be paid the going rate for it.


But there is, I believe, some
inconsistency within the Falkland Island(s’) Government itself.  If we look at the apprenticeship scheme here
– if someone leaves school at 16 and they decide they wish to be a plumber and
they are taken on as an apprentice by Government, they will be paid one rate.  If a 25 year old who had a mid-life crisis
and decides he wishes he wishes to become a plumber, he also will apply for a
plumbing apprenticeship and be taken on by Government.  Do we pay different rates?  No. 
The 16 year old Plumber’s Apprentice will be paid exactly the same as a
25 year old Plumber’s apprentice – I presume because we won’t discriminate on
the grounds of age.


I think there is also a problem
with the actual rate that is proposed. 
At the moment it is proposed that those 18 years and older will be paid
£5.05 whereas those who are 16 and 17 will be paid £3.10 an hour.  And yet earlier this year this House passed
the Working Credits Bill which, to my understanding, means that if we have a 16
or a 17 year-old who is living in the YMCA, looking after himself, working
40hrs a week and he qualifies for working credits supplement.  He goes along and makes an application.  This means that a 16 or 17 year old, instead
of being paid £3.10 an hour minimum wage would qualify for a Government Funded
uplift of another £0.80 an hour meaning he will be paid £3.90 an hour.  And if we look at the 18 year old on £5.05 an
hour, if he applied for the working credit scheme, he would gain another £0.38
an hour, bringing his rate up to £5.43. 
Now when one bares in mind the Falkland Island(s’) Government pays above
the Minimum Wage, by setting the figure as we have proposed, the Falkland
Island(s’) Government will be subsidising the private sector to pay lower wages
than we believe people should be receiving.


So, Mr Speaker, to summarise, I
believe that this proposed differential pay, depending purely on age is unfair
and I believe it is probably unconstitutional as well.  If a person can do the job then they should
be paid the same rate regardless of age.


I beg to Move the Amendment.


KB:  The Motion is the Bill should be
amended to provide for a single wage rate instead of separate rates for young
persons and adults.  Does any Member wish
to speak to that Motion?


DS:  Mr Speaker, I would just like to
pick up on a couple of points from a lot of points that have been made by my
Honourable Colleague.


But simply to say to put it into a
nut shell, If I was that farmer with that dilemma I  would be employing 2 strapping 17 year-olds,
paying them a different rate and I would be putting them on the road to having
work experience in employment which I think largely is what this Bill is down


It is quite common to have
separate rates under Minimum Wage agreements. 
I have been looking at the UK rates, for example and quite rightly there
are different rates for apprentices, under ‘18s and there is even a different
rate for 18 to 20 year-olds and 21 and over. 
And I think what we are proposing here is completely adequate.  It has gone through lengthy consultation with
all the employers and employees as well that I am aware of and I would prefer
to see the Bill as is without amendments.


JC:  Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I
could be a little facetious and ask where I can find this strapping 17 year-old
who is willing to dig post holes for that minimum wage.  As I said before, I think the wages will be
largely market-driven.  And this Bill
does not prevent the employer paying more for someone who he sees is doing
more.  Therefore I won’t be supporting
the amendment.


RE:  Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I think the
Chief Executive summed it up in his introduction.  He said when this Bill first came to
Executive Council, it only mentioned adult workers.  And that in itself was amended to take into
account those under the age of 18.  So we
have already seen and discussed in other places that there is recognition that
people below the age of 18 do need a minimum wage.  And as my Honourable Colleagues Dick Sawle
and Jan Cheek have already said, this has been debated in other places and
these rates were set and thought to be reasonable.


GS:  Thank you Mr Speaker, first off I
would like to thank you for the humanity you are showing to us more rickety
Members by not having to get up and down all the time.  I would just like to pick up on the
unfortunate analogy of digging post holes. 
Now-a-days you probably would have a strike on your hands if you dug too
many post holes.  Having dug some in my
day, though, I will say that especially when it comes to restrainer posts it
doesn’t really matter what your age is. 
There is an art-form to that I can assure you.


It is interesting because I can go
back to the General Employees when we can negotiate with Government when we had
a wage disagreement with Government.  It
was a simple thing on two sheets of A-4 and everyone was happy.  That also had different rates for 18 year-old
labourers and below.  So even then we
recognised this, although I will accept it was a different world we were in –
very much of manual labour.  Manual
labour is, as far as I am concerned, pretty skilled.  There is an art-form to rolling a bail, there
is an art-form to digging a post hole. 
And I must admit it took me a while to pick them up when I started
working in that sector.


I don’t think I can support this
particular amendment.  However, I do
believe there might be another on the way that I may be more amenable to.


BE:  In those by-gone days in your
youth and you were in the Union did you discriminate on grounds of sex and pay
women a less wage?


GS:  It’s interesting that probably if
we looked back at our old agreements your hair would turn grey.  We never even mentioned ladies.  I guess would put it to you that we were
ahead of the game.


BE:  I would put it to you that you were paying
women a lower rate of pay than you were paying men for the same job probably.  I wasn’t here at the time but…


KB:  There is a lot of nodding going on.


DS:  A point of order Mr Speaker,
Please.  We are meant to be on proposed
amendments and not dabbling in nostalgia.


KB:  We are not talking about History now.


BE:  We are talking about discrimination Mr
Speaker, my point being that discrimination the kind of discrimination not
allowing women to be paid at a lower rate of pay for the same job in by-gone
days is no longer acceptable.  We
wouldn’t wish to go back there.  And I
raise it because I think in the years to come people will look at the idea of
paying a 16 or a 17 year old a lower rate for the job, even if they do that job
as well or if not better than an 18 year old, we will be looking back and
wonder if they really did that in those days.


IH:  Thank you Mr Speaker, I have very little to
add.  I believe the Honourable Dr Barry
Elsby made some valid points but I also think there are some large gaps in some
of his arguments.  This being the only
instance we are discriminating for age isn’t strictly true because our other
laws on driving and drinking, for instance, are very much driven by age
limits.  And I feel as my other
Colleagues do that this minimum wage rate in the Bill is there for a very good
reason and I agree with the Honourable Gavin Short that you do have to have
experience to do many things and it’s not just manual labour but there are many
walks of life that you do need extra experience so I feel I cannot be
supporting this amendment. 


Thank you Mr Speaker.


KB:  The Motion therefore is that the Bill should
be amended to provide for a minimum wage rate instead of separate rates for
young persons and adults.  We now go to a
formal division.


CP:  The Honourable Jan Cheek, how do
you vote?


JC:  No


The Hon Ian Hansen voted No, the
Honourable Dick Sawle voted No, The Honourable Roger Edwards voted No, The
Honourable Barry Elsby voted Yes and the the Honourable Gavin Short voted
No.  The Motion failed.


BE:  I beg to move a further procedural
Motion that before the Chief Executive’s Motion is put the Committee debate the
principle that the Bill should be amended so that the Minimum Wage rate for
adults would apply to those aged 17 and over instead of those aged 18 and over.


KB:  The Motion is that there should be a further
debate as the Honourable Dr Elsby has proposed before the Chief Executive’s
substantive Motion is put.  Is there any
objection to that Motion?


There was no objection.


BE:  I beg to move that the Bill should
be amended so that the Minimum Wage rate for adults should be applied for those
aged 17 years and over instead of those aged 18 and over.  I won’t rehearse the arguments.  We have already been through the
arguments.  I think this was, hopefully,
a compromise amendment.  Instead of 16
year olds we are now talking about 17 year olds.  My 6ft2in lad is still out digging post holes
quicker than the waif-like 5ft2in 18 year old girl and I hope my colleagues
would support the amendment that we pay 17 year olds the same as we would 18
year olds.


KB:  The Motion is that the Bill should
be amended so that the Minimum Wage rate should be applied to those aged 17 and
over instead of those aged 18 and over. 
Does any Member wish to speak to the Motion?


DS:  Mr Speaker and I would add that
the strapping 17 year-old is still gaining in work experience and moving
rapidly towards an 18 year olds’ Minimum Wage.


GS:  I would like to say that with this
amendment the Honourable Barry Elsby has indeed moved in the direction that I
find myself in agreement.  I believe that
the 17 year old should be in receipt of that Minimum Wage.


KB:  The Motion is that the Minimum Wage rate for
adults should apply to those 17 and over instead of those aged 18 and
over.  There will now be a formal


CP:  The Honourable Jan Cheek, how do
you vote?


JC:  No


The Hon Ian Hansen voted No, the
Honourable Dick Sawle voted No, The Honourable Roger Edwards voted No, The
Honourable Barry Elsby voted Yes and the the Honourable Gavin Short voted Yes.  The Motion failed.


KB:  We are back to the substantive
Motion.  The Chief Executive’s original
Motion is that Clauses 1 to 34 stand part of the Bill.  Does any Member wish to speak to that Motion.


There was no debate or objection
that Clauses 1 to 34 stand part of the Bill


CP:  Schedule 1


KP:  I beg to move that Schedule 1 be
(a)scheduled to the Bill.


GS: Mr
Speaker, I hope I am in the right place here.


KB:  If it is what I think you are
(speaking about) the answer is no.


GS:  I do apologise.  I will sit down.


KB:  I will let you know anon.


There was no objection to Schedule
1 being (a)scheduled to the Bill.


CP:  Schedule 2


KP:  Mr Speaker I beg to Move that paragraph 3 of
schedule 2 be amended by:

the following paragraph after Paragraph 3 (1)(a)(Roman Numeral I): Which is
(Roman Numeral II) the Falkland Islands Defence Force and



consultation version of the Bill including the provision that service in the
Falkland Islands Defence Force would be excluded work for the purposes of the
Minimum Wage.


There were various discussions in
the light of the consultation exercise about the state of service in the FIDF
and the decision was taken to recommend to Executive Council that service in
the FIDF should remain excluded from the scope of the Minimum Wage.


In response to representations
that were made about remuneration for FIDF volunteers.  A further paper was submitted to Executive
Council yesterday.  As a result the
decision has been taken to keep service in the FIDF outside the scope of the
Minimum Wage.. However, recognising the commitment made by the FIDF volunteers
and the importance of their role it was also decided to remove the 12-hour cap
on payment for FIDF activities in a single 24-hour period and to increase the
hourly rates paid to FIDF volunteers by 20%. 
This ensures that FIDF volunteers will be paid more than the Minimum
wage even outside the scope of the legislation.


In the course of this work it
emerged that there had been a mistake in the version of the Bill that was
Gazetted.  And although the heading to
Paragraph 3 referred to the FIDF, the provision about the FIDF was omitted in
error from the body of the text.  This
amendment would correct that. 


I beg to so Move.


KB:  The motion is that the Amendment as read out
by the Chief Executive is to be made to the schedule of No 2.


GS:  Mr Speaker.  Thank you very much.  I think I am in the right place this


KB:  Proceed.


GS:  Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I actually
oppose the proposal that has just been tabled to include the Falkland Islands
Defence Force in the Schedule of the Minimum Wages Bill as a group we are
excluded from.  Before I perhaps start on
my reasoning I think it’s worth pointing out that as a small country we really
do depend on people who give up their time – and it is on a voluntary basis
even though they are paid for it to carry out the roles of Police, the Fire
Brigade and of course the FIDF.  Without
those people I think we would be in a pretty sorry state.  So this isn’t about trying to favour one
voluntary group over another.


As I understand it – and I think I
have this right – the main objection from the Administration is that the FIDF
are a volunteer force and have no form of written statement of employment to
the FIG.  Other services, I believe, are
supposed to have this and are classed as casual employees.


First of all, I would like to make
a couple of points and I have asked a couple of fire-fighters about this
statement of employment and they looked at me rather blankly and said, well,
why don’t you write in one of those.


And if it is really so important
that to get the Minimum wage you need to be a casual employee of FIG, why don’t
we give the FIDF this mythical piece of paper that says you are.  I think in some quarters the FIDF are seen as
someone who just go when they want to and zoom around the hills and have fun
and go home again.  And on occasion they
are seen on parade.  And of course that’s
true.  I was a member and I admit there
were times when I did have fun.  There
were other times when it wasn’t when you are cold and wet and pushed to your
limits or being screamed at by a rather irate training sergeant.  And it certainly wasn’t fun on the 1st
of April 1982.


Those volunteers of the FIDF that
the FIG wish to exclude from the minimum wage are trained to take life – that
is true but just as importantly they are also trained to save and sustain
lives.  They form a vital apart of the search
and rescue operations – also mountain rescue operations here in the Islands -
to name just two small parts.


The argument has also been made
that they are totally voluntary since there is no central control.  And perhaps to a point that is also true but
I say to you that I still have a part-time job and it is voluntary and I am
paid for it.  And apart from having to
pass my exams, etc. I am also free to name the times when I can and cannot turn
up.  Of course if I chose just to have my
yearly exam and not turn up the rest of the year I am sure that I would pretty
quickly got rid of.


Now the FIDF to a point are
exactly the same.  Those people who do
not go through their ‘FT’ etc. I think are gently spoken to and reminded of
their obligations to the force and indeed to their country and failure to
respond probably does lead to their services not being required any more.


However, this is an interesting
point, I think, with the Falkland Islands Defence Force there does come a time
when you are not voluntary and indeed, fun and you are obligated to attend and
that is when there is a national crisis and a proclamation is made.  You have no choice.  You may be called a volunteer but you are
not.  You will attend and you will do
your duty to your country and face whatever may be coming your way.  Otherwise you may be having a visit from the
Boys in Blue and asked to accompany them.


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