Last night [Oct 23] the Pembroke Parish Council hosted a forum on Term Limits at the Pembroke Sunday School.
Under the term limits policy, work permit holders who have worked for six years or more in Bermuda are not entitled to a renewal of their permit. Waivers to grant the permit holder an exemption from the six-year limit can be granted by Immigration, and Government previously stated that some 70% of applicants either had their work permit term limits waived or extended.
The panelists included columnist Larry Burchall, PLP candidate and social commentator Walton Brown, OBA MP Shawn Crockwell, BIU President Chris Furbert, and ABIC’s Richard Winchell.
The event began at 7.30pm and around 50 people were present including PLP MP Derrick Burgess, former MP & BIU President Ottiwell Simmons, former Senator Laverne Furbert, and OBA candidates Nicholas Kempe and Andrew Simons.
Larry Burchall spoke first saying that term limits should be abolished. He said Government is waiving them in the majority of cases anyway, however potential investors still “see them on the books” which detracts from the island’s ability to attract new business.
Walton Brown.then addressed the audience saying term limits do need to be reformed, however we need to find the right balance while considering aspects such as the humanitarian side and ability to attract business while putting the interests of Bermudians first. “Simplistic solutions aren’t real solutions,” said Mr Brown.
Richard Winchell spoke next pointing out the work permit policy is what protects Bermudian jobs, not term limits. He said the situation has changed since we first implemented the term limits, and our competitive edge has been diminished, and we need to bear that in mind when implementing policies.
The OBA’s Shawn Crockwell spoke next, saying he agreed with Mr Brown’s point that Bermudians must come first. He differentiated between work permits and term limits, and also said as Bermuda is such a business hub it would be ideal to have more Bermudians trained in the insurance industry.
He said the OBA will suspend term limits for 2 years and evaluate the situation going forward. “People don’t have to come to Bermuda, and we have to understand that,” said Mr Crockwell.
BIU President Chris Furbert spoke next. He said we need international business as it helps to provide employment, as well as pays taxes. He pointed out we need to find the right balance as far as the needs of international business as well as the interests of Bermudians. Mr Furbert also spoke on work permits, noting that in some cases employers deliberately craft their employment ads with the set idea to hire a non-Bermudian on a work permit.
The Q&A started after all the speakers. That was a brief confusion at first as each question being asked by the audience was being answered by each panelist. An audience member pointed out “we could be here all night” if each panelist answers each question. The format was changed after that the event wrapped up just past 9pm.