Sort out high rents before wages, say JHA

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Simon Soar accused Social Security Minister Judy Martin of attempting to ‘override’ normal processes for minimum-wage increases and said that ministers had ‘ignored the impact’ of Covid-19 on hospitality and other sectors.

Last week, Deputy Martin lodged a proposition which, if approved by States Members, would see the hourly minimum rate rise by 90p to £9.22 from 1 January 2022.

In 2018, the States Assembly agreed that the minimum wage should be set at 45% of average earnings. A rate of £9.22 would, the minister said, achieve this aim. Earlier this year, Members also voted in favour of the forum examining the feasibility of setting Jersey’s minimum wage at the level of the Island’s living wage, which is currently £10.96.

Deputy Martin, in her proposition, admitted that, owing to the pandemic, the usual consultation exercise carried out by the Employment Forum had not been completed this year.

Mr Soar, who is soon to leave his position as JHA chief executive, said: ‘While we respect the political ambition to move towards a minimum wage that is the equivalent of 45% of the average wage, the JHA is concerned that aiming to do that on 1 January 2022 with this significant increase has ignored the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on hospitality and other sectors. It is also being made without input from the Employment Forum. It is normal practice that the figure the minister recommends to the States is one that the forum reaches after detailed consultation and research.

‘It would seem that Covid is being used as an excuse to override the process.’

He added that results of any consultation with Jersey businesses were unlikely to be available until later this year and might be ‘too late to consider next to the minister’s plans’.

‘It is no secret that the pandemic and the restrictions imposed had a greater effect on hospitality than other sectors and once again the very large increase will have

a disproportionate impact on our members. There are many other factors that need to be addressed to ensure people that live and work here receive the quality of life they need.

‘The high rents that are affecting those in our workforce who do not have accommodation and food provided as part of their employment contract will not be addressed by large increases in the minimum wage.

‘Hospitality businesses have been setting wages above inflation for many years, but at the same time the rental market has got out of control, making it impossible to keep up as rents jump even further ahead.

‘That is what is having an impact on people’s quality of life,’ Mr Soar added.

The proposition is due to be debated during the sitting beginning on Tuesday 2 November.

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