Market rate? In the hospitality sector the average salary for a non-Bermudian pot washer was $32,090, according to 2010 Employment Survey. *MCT photo
Market rate? In the hospitality sector the average salary for a non-Bermudian pot washer was $32,090, according to 2010 Employment Survey. *MCT photo

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 18: There are over 100 non-Bermudians in the hospitality industry affected by the moratorium on pot washers and cleaners.

In the hospitality sector, the average salary for a non-Bermudian pot washer was $32,090 and for a non-Bermudian house cleaner was $28,714 according to the 2010 Employment Survey.

That works out to $16.46 and $14.73 an hour respectively based on a 37.5-hour work week.

According to the Survey the salary for a pot washer ranges from $6,000 a year to $42,000 a year and for a cleaner from $21,000 a year to $54,000 a year.

Comments on Facebook showed some Bermudians were unwilling to work for these wages with one Bermudian saying: “I can’t make my mortgage on $15 an hour.”

They wouldn’t take any pot-washing job unless they could earn $50,000 a year, which would work out to $25.60 an hour based on a 37.5 work week.

Phillip Barnett, co-chair of the restaurant division of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said its simple economics

“$32,000 a year in the US —  that’s a median income.”

He said the top wage for a pot washer in the US or Canada was around $11 an hour.

“There’s not anywhere higher in the world that pays pot washers an hourly rate, higher than Bermuda.

“The bottom line is we would love to pay our pot washers $100,000 a year…but until people come in looking for $12 and $13 hamburgers are going to be willing to pay $100 for a hamburger, the economics would not work.

“It really comes down to what can feasibly be paid in order for the business model to work, which means pot washers are going to be making $14, $15, $16 an hour.

“It would be fantastic if we could pay everyone more. It would be fantastic if all of us in this industry could be paid as much as those in international business or ministers, but the fact of the matter that’s what it breaks down to.”

He said the point people miss when complaining about the wages pot washers or house cleaners make is “we can’t pay people more than the financial model allows.

“It’s a bit upsetting and frustrating when you hear outsiders who don’t know, who have no knowledge of how the restaurant business works, or don’t put one iota of thought to it.

“Unless people are buying food, there’s no way to get paid. The only way to get people to buy food is to put it at a reasonable price that people will accept.

“People already say that food is expensive on the island. The reason it is more expensive is we pay, on average, higher salaries to our employees than virtually anywhere else in the world.

“That’s what causes the cost of everything in Bermuda to be higher.

“For someone to say that $35,000 is not a liveable wage — well it’s not a liveable wage if you’re looking to pay $2,000 a month in rent and own a $2,000 cell phone, a fancy watch, or whatever else it may be.”

He said two people earning that amount and sharing a rent could get by on it.

“I know because I have staff who do it and have been with me almost 10 years.”

Mr Barnett threw out a challenge to anyone who wants to complain about that wage

“Have them go in and offer to pay $100 for a hamburger, rather than the $15 list price and I will gladly give the other $85 over to the pot washer as a form of payment.”

He added that it seems like it should be simple economics but people still complain, “You pay your people too little”.

John Harvey, CEO of the Bermuda Hotel Association, said the average starting salary for a member of the BHA as a housekeeper was $680 a week or $35,360 a year. 

“Anyone who lives in (staff quarters) would get about half that amount.”

He said that would not include tips —  but not all positions are tipped.