[Updated with PLP response] Minister of Home Affairs Michael Fahy announced today [Jan 30] that Government has decided to eliminate the Term Limit Policy “with immediate effect.”
Under the Term Limits Policy, work permit holders who have worked for six years or more in Bermuda were not entitled to a renewal of their work permit. Waivers for an exemption from the six-year limit could be granted by Immigration, and in 2010 Government stated that some 70% of applicants either had the limit waived or extended.
“We believe that the elimination of the policy will help spark economic growth and create employment opportunities for Bermudians,” said the Minister.
“We will continue to ensure that the rights of the Bermudian worker are a priority for this Government. You will already know that the Term Limit Policy was not created to protect Bermudian jobs; it is the work permit policy that protects Bermudian jobs”
The Minister thanked the Opposition Leader Marc Bean, saying he “showed tremendous fortitude and courage in supporting the abolishment of term limits.”
“I want to pause for a moment to address an issue related to guest workers. The recent online blogs and talk radio shows have been rampant with this negative rhetoric being targeted at our non-Bermudian workers,” Minister Fahy continued.
“Mind you, it’s only a select few fanning the flames of negativity, but it only takes one or two individuals for the comments to eventually snowball into something that translates into Bermudians being perceived as anti-foreigner.”
Minister Fahy said, “Over the next few months, all work permit holders will be required to sign a declaration confirming their understanding that Bermuda law does not confer rights of permanent residence and that the holder has no expectation of such residence.
“A refund will be issued for all Term Limit applications that have not been processed to date. This refund will not extend to those applications that have already been processed.”
Minister Fahy’s full statement follows below:
Good afternoon and thank you for joining me.
Not long ago, I shared with you some of this Ministry’s plans as it relates to the current Term Limit Policy, particularly our intent to share our Impact Assessment on the Elimination of Term Limits with the Work Permit stakeholder group in a bid to seek their views on the policy recommendations contained in the document.
The penultimate view sought related to the policy alternatives, that is, a suspension of the current Term-Limit Policy for two years verses the elimination of the term limit policy entirely.
It is my view that such an important decision as this should not be made in a vacuum and therefore the stakeholder feedback was an integral component of the decision-making process.
As Minister, I said last week that one of my key objectives prior to and during this review process was to meet with as many stakeholder groups as possible, to layout our plans and discuss the issue of term limits, while at the same time, taking the time to reinforce our commitment to getting Bermudians back to work and ensuring fair employment practices as it relates to Bermudian workers.
It bears repeating that – creating and safe-guarding jobs are paramount for this Government and this is the rationale for the policy consideration that will ultimately see a shift in the current Term Limit Policy.
Today, after much deliberation, input and feedback, I wish to announce that the Government has decided to move forward with the elimination of the Term Limit Policy with immediate effect.
We believe that the elimination of the policy will help spark economic growth and create employment opportunities for Bermudians.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the leader of the Opposition, MP Marc Bean who showed tremendous fortitude and courage in supporting the abolishment of term limits.
I look forward to hearing further suggestions from the Opposition in relation to other policy initiatives.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank those members of the Work Permit Policy Stakeholder group and our legal counsel for their vital feedback.
And, I want to assure the people of this Country that this was not a decision that was taken lightly.
We will continue to ensure that the rights of the Bermudian worker are a priority for this Government.
You will already know that the Term Limit Policy was not created to protect Bermudian jobs; it is the work permit policy that protects Bermudian jobs.
To this end, I want to reassure all Bermudians, particularly those Bermudians who are currently seeking employment that the elimination of the Term Limit Policy, otherwise known as the Policy to Inhibit Long Term Residency, will not result in an added burden or obstacle for you as you continue to seek employment. In fact, it will likely be one of many tools that this Government uses to create more employment opportunities for Bermudians.
I want to remind all Bermudians that every work permit holder is in Bermuda for a defined period based on the length of their work permit. When a one, two or three year work permit expires, the job must be advertised.
Where a qualified Bermudian applies for the job, the employer must extend the job to the qualified Bermudian applicant.
To this end, the Ministry will continue to focus on training and development strategies to prepare our next generation of Bermudian workers with the necessary skills and education to take advantage of an increasingly sophisticated job market.
Also, in the coming weeks the Ministry will share more with respect to the new measures that will be put in place to strengthen the penalties for employers who violate work permit policies. These penalties will affect recruitment practices and the required disclosure of information with respect to qualified Bermudians who apply for advertised jobs.
Please know, and I cannot stress this enough – this Government is committed to ensuring that Bermudian jobs are protected and more importantly that more job opportunities are afforded to all Bermudians by removing barriers to job creation such as Term Limits.
To be clear, our guest workers are vitally important to our economy.
The data shows that there are more jobs in the economy than there are qualified Bermudians to fill some of the jobs.
Not only do guest workers bring skills and expertise but remember – they rent our homes and apartments, dine in our restaurants, shop in our stores, buy motor bikes and cars, consume energy and generally help to support our economy at many levels. Their mere presence helps to create and sustain jobs.
And as a community we must embrace our guest workers as they are genuinely a part of what keeps our economy moving forward.
I want to pause for a moment to address an issue related to guest workers. The recent online blogs and talk radio shows have been rampant with this negative rhetoric being targeted at our non-Bermudian workers. Mind you, it’s only a select few fanning the flames of negativity, but it only takes one or two individuals for the comments to eventually snowball into something that translates into Bermudians being perceived as anti-foreigner.
Some of the comments I’ve heard and seen have been completely unacceptable. And regrettably we don’t have suitable mechanisms in place to properly police some of these anonymous rants.
But I think the wider community understand me when I say that this anti-foreigner anger is uninformed, misdirected and unhelpful. I am quite willing to listen to all sides of an issue, but it does us absolutely no good to engage in a dialogue that’s divisive and counterproductive in moving this Country to a higher level of acceptance and tolerance.
This Country’s diversity is what makes us unique. Our welcoming and hospitable nature is what has made us legendary.
Are we a Country with challenges and issues to address – yes – but we are also a Country with many positives. And if we are to address our challenges in a productive way then we must start from a place of mutual respect.
The Government recognizes that in some cases guest workers compete for the same jobs as Bermudians which is why we will ensure that our approach is balanced and fair and that Bermudians are not disadvantaged.
I encourage all unemployed Bermudians – professional, technical, administrative and otherwise to ensure that they are registered with the Department of Labour and Training.
A record of all unemployed persons’ employment status, academic qualifications, skills and experience is an important source of information as we seek to refine policies in the best interest of all Bermuda.
To be clear, the elimination of the Policy: Measures to Inhibit Long –Term Residency represents a giant step forward. It represents the red carpet approach, conveying that Bermuda is open for business.
It’s a policy that has been identified as a barrier to job creation.
While it is not the panacea, it is one of a number of changes that must be made if Bermuda’s economy is to grow.
Of course, I expect that there will be some administrative and operational questions that will need to be answered and the Department of Immigration will communicate directly with all employers in the coming weeks with respect to processes, so please know that:
Over the next few months, all work permit holders will be required to sign a declaration confirming their understanding that Bermuda law does not confer rights of permanent residence and that the holder has no expectation of such residence.
A refund will be issued for all Term Limit applications that have not been processed to date. This refund will not extend to those applications that have already been processed.
Ladies and gentlemen, today marks the first step towards rebuilding Bermuda’s economic prosperity.
I believe we are a Country of forward thinking, hard working and innovative people. And if we all work together, collectively in support of one another, I have no doubt that we can return Bermuda to the heights of economic success.
Update 4.40pm: As noted above, Minister Fahy thanked Opposition Leader Marc Bean, saying he “showed tremendous fortitude and courage in supporting the abolishment of term limits.”
The PLP just issued a statement saying the Minister citing the Opposition Leader’s support is “erroneous and disingenuous at best.”
“Mr. Bean has not declared support for this move in any forum and Minister Fahy is irresponsible for suggesting this,” the PLP said.
The full statement from the PLP is below:
The statement released today by Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, citing the support of the removal of Term Limits by Opposition Leader Mr. Marc Bean is erroneous and disingenuous at best. Mr. Bean has not declared support for this move in any forum and Minister Fahy is irresponsible for suggesting this.
Please be advised that the Progressive Labour Party has not released any statement citing a revision to our existing view of term limits.
Prior to the December 17 election, the PLP had committed to widespread immigration reform, and those discussions continue within the Party caucus. Our primary concern is the need for there to be opportunities for Bermudians to ensure career progression and development.
The Progressive Labour Party understands the need for expatriate workers in Bermuda and supports the policies that make it more accommodating for them to set up employment and to relocate to Bermuda, however, we also must strike a balance between this accommodation and ensuring opportunities for qualified and capable Bermudians are provided.
A note of concern is that this major policy change is a swift departure from the OBA campaign promise of a 2 year suspension and review of the term limits policy.
Once the PLP discussions on Immigration reform are complete, a statement will be released from the Party stating our position.”
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