On 18 March, the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee held a forum to hear the views of the public about the changing of the 15 year old minimum wage, but the turnout was extremely poor.
The public meeting was the first in a series and was held at the Sir Rupert Briercliffe Hall, but the attendance comprised mainly of Committee members, Labour Department staff, and members of the media.
The views among the few attendees ranged from balancing the cost of living and inflation. A resident also bemoaned the fact that the cost of things such as passport, and departure tax were increased.
However, there appeared to be a more favorable response during the Committee’s feature on the Speak out BVI program on Tuesday 24 March. The nine callers to the program had varying views such as — the minimum wage should be reviewed every ten or 12 years, there should be no minimum wage, and that there should be a different minimum wage for various job categories.
A bold caller told the panel that included host of the show Douglas Wheatley, Chair of the Minimum Wage Committee, Simon Potter and Vice Chair of the Committee, Benedicta Samuel that people did not attend the meeting because they don’t believe anything will be done.
On the radio program the Committee members announced that although the community meeting was not well attended there were meaningful points that even enlightened them. They promised to submit a comprehensive report.
Sharing of Tips
The tip-pooling practice of various hospitality companies was raised and criticized at the public meeting by Mr. Donald DeCastro who is also the President of the Virgin Islands Workers Union.
Mr. DeCastro told the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee that some employers withhold employee tips and some pay their staff with the same tip.
He explained that many of the employees who operate under tipping services make the minimum wage and with the pooling system are forced to share their tips, which would allow them to take home a more comfortable pay, with other employees who often make way more.
He said that often when an employee is given a tip it is because they gave an extraordinary service. He said that many establishments have the service charge which is calculated on the bill; and as such should not be misconstrued as a tip which is given on top of the service charge as an appreciation of the person who rendered the exceptional service.
Mr. DeCastro said that it was wrong that the earned tip is pooled to be shared with other employees who do nothing and don’t offer proper service. He said the sharing of tips should not be mandatory, but by choice: “It is that employee’s prerogative if they want to share their tip.”
Another member of the audience, Mr. Keith Flax agreed with Mr. DeCastro and stated that the pooling of tips practice should not be mandatory. He said that it is true that many persons are encouraged to tip extra based on the service that they are given. He said that personally he tips the individual not the establishment: “When I am rendered good service, I give a good tip and I tell the server put that in your pocket,” Mr. Flax said.
Ms. Samuels, the Vice Chair of the Minimum Wage Committee explained that the Labour Code does not support pooled tips being used to pay employees. “That is wrong”, she stated.