[Updated] Last night Minister Patrice Minors admitted the the timeline issued by Government for guest workers to leave was “somewhat aggressive” and said that employers can appeal the decision.
Yesterday the Royal Gazette reported that restaurateurs told them that “the Department had called them to say that the workers all of whose work permit renewals were on hold because of a moratorium imposed last February had “to cease and desist” working as of January 20 and settle their affairs on the island within the following three weeks”
In February 2011, the Ministry introduced a work permit moratorium for the categories of landscape gardeners, cleaners, kitchen and bar porters, housekeepers and skilled labourers.
Yesterday Minister Minors confirmed that there has been a delay in processing the paper work associated with the moratorium categories, and confirmed that some guest workers whose work permits have expired have been instructed to “wind down their affairs in Bermuda.”
The Minister agreed to “revisit the timeline” for those guest workers who were instructed to stop working on 20 January and to settle their affairs, as “admittedly the timeline issued by the Department was somewhat aggressive.”
The Minister also said employers will be able to appeal the decision, and the appeals will be handled on a case by case basis.
Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier said the One Bermuda Alliance hopes the “Government has thought through this pre-election step. Cleaners hired by local restaurants have contracts that must be honoured; and restaurant operations must be maintained.
“We expect the Government has a list of ready and able Bermudians to step into these positions and that it is working with restaurateurs to make sure all goes smoothly.”
He also said while the OBA “support any effort that helps get our people employed”, we should “keep this desperate measure in perspective: The PLP have taken us so far down that we’re now pushing people to pot washer jobs, one of the lowest paid job categories in the economy.”
Earlier this month Government said they will be looking at closing additional categories of work permits including masons, carpenters, electricians, plumbers; and placing additional restrictions on categories including waiters, servers, secretaries and caregivers.
Mr Cannonier’s full statement follows below:
We support any effort that helps get our people employed.
But let’s keep this desperate measure in perspective: The PLP have taken us so far down that we’re now pushing people to pot washer jobs, one of the lowest paid job categories in the economy.
Is this the best we can do for an unemployed 33-year-old construction worker? Is this the best we can say to an 18-year-old, who has gone through the school system to the unemployment lines? That you can be a pot washer?
This situation would have been unimaginable three or four years ago, but that is where PLP mismanagement of the economy has brought us.
Let’s keep in mind what we have lost under the PLP watch: An economy that was fully employed; providing genuine opportunities to anyone with dreams of building careers in industries that were growing.
That is what has been lost.
How that happened can be traced to any number of examples where the Government should have been doing something but didn’t. It comes back to passing the buck from one education minister to the next; from alienating job creators instead of building partnerships, from knocking down hotels to buying one to use as a dormitory.
We need a government that is committed to building the strongest possible future for the people of this Island. Whatever its motives or goals, this Government has made Bermuda weaker not stronger.
It does not have to be this way.
The OBA is committed to making the economy work for our people again, but it will require a change in government followed by forward looking, sensible policies that grow business confidence and jobs.
In our Throne Speech Reply (pages 5-9) and in subsequent documents and statements, the OBA has put forward short-term and long-term plans to get the economy working again for Bermudians from all walks of life.
The quickest way to improve our economic fortunes is a change of Government. This would send a signal that Bermuda is open again to job-growing business. It would help restore confidence in Bermuda within the local and international business community and with investors, both local and foreign.
Right now, job-growing ideas and money remain on the sidelines because the PLP Government has soured the business environment.
Finally, we hope the Government has thought through this pre-election step. Cleaners hired by local restaurants have contracts that must be honoured; and restaurant operations must be maintained. We expect the Government has a list of ready and able Bermudians to step into these positions and that it is working with restaurateurs to make sure all goes smoothly.
The full statement from Government is below:
Today the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Hon. Patrice K. Minors JP, MP, met with members of the Bermuda Hotel Association and Chamber of Commerce’s Restaurant Division.
Minister Minors noted that the “discussions were open and productive”.
During each meeting Minister Minors addressed queries regarding the status of the Ministry’s moratorium policy on certain job categories and confirmed that the moratorium remains in effect.
The public will recall that in February 2011, the Ministry introduced a work permit moratorium for the categories of landscape gardeners, cleaners, kitchen and bar porters, housekeepers and skilled labourers.
The Minister confirmed however that in the last few months, due to an internal backlog, there has regrettably been a delay in the administrative processing of the paper work associated with the moratorium categories.
The Ministry confirmed that all administrative processes are now being expedited in accordance with the terms of the moratorium.
And the Ministry confirmed that those guest workers in the affected categories whose work permits have expired have been instructed to wind down their affairs in Bermuda.
However after further review, the Minister has agreed to revisit the timeline for those guest workers who were instructed to stop working on 20 January and to settle their affairs, as admittedly the timeline issued by the Department was somewhat aggressive.
The Minister also advised that in accordance with the moratorium guidelines, employers will be provided the opportunity to appeal the decision and those appeals will be handled on a case by case basis.
Meanwhile Minister Minors urged Bermudians to register with the Department of Labour and Training to ensure that they are able to take advantage of job openings created by unsuccessful appeals.
As a further note, the Department of Labour and Training is looking into adding a “Clean Kitchens Course” to its regular training schedule so that interested Bermudians can be exposed to the requirements for the role of kitchen porters on an ongoing basis.
This evening Minister Minors said, “Our main priority during these tough economic times has always been to get Bermudians back to work.”
She continued, “We fully recognise that there is a delicate balance in sustaining and safeguarding our Bermudian workforce, as well as ensuring that the needs of our business partners were adequately addressed. However we must also ensure that our Bermudian labour force is adequately supported.
“And we believe this is in the best interest of those many Bermudians who are currently unemployed. As it relates to our industry partners, it is not the desire of Government to hamper the productivity of their businesses – quite the contrary. I can assure them, that we are taking a measured approach. We are here to assist employers with finding good employees and running successful businesses.”
Update 5.08pm: Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier responded to the Minister’s statement saying, “Again, it’s our view that the Government is so desperate to be seen to be taking action on behalf of the people that they are rushing around without thinking about what they are actually doing.
“The Minister’s plan to revisit her directives to get rid of expat cleaners is just a reflection of PLP politics getting ahead of clear thinking. It’s just one more example of how politics is getting in the way of the people’s business.
“As we said yesterday, we support any effort to get Bermudians working, but you really have to be smart about how you go about achieving that. We want the Government to succeed in getting jobs for the jobless, but for goodness sake they’ve got to take care to get their ducks in a row first.”