Column: ‘Bermudians Get The Highest Priority’

January 3, 2017

[Opinion column written by Acting Immigration Minister Cole Simons]

As Bermudians discuss the non-renewal of Rev. Genevieve-Tweed’s work permit, I would ask them to consider three questions:

  • 1. Should employers advertise jobs seeking qualified Bermudians before hiring non-Bermudians?
  • 2. Should foreign nationals provide complete and accurate information on their work permit applications?
  • 3. Should there be one set of rules for everyone?

If the answer to these questions is “Yes” – and I can’t imagine Bermudians answering any other way – then there is agreement with Immigration policies that have been developed to protect them and all other Bermudian workers.

Yet there has been a lot said on this matter by the Opposition and the BIU leadership that would, if enacted, throw these protections out the window.

Cole Simons Bermuda TC January 3 2017

So I take this opportunity to state as clearly as possible our position on this matter and what it means for the Bermudian worker.

All that was asked of the employer and applicant was to follow the policy that applies to everyone else seeking work permit approval: Advertise the job and fill out the application on time, accurately and completely.

The intent underlying these requirements is no different than what is expected of anyone who interacts with government departments.

People fully understand, for example, that if they don’t fill out a passport application accurately and completely, it will be rejected. The same goes for a business licence, a driver’s licence or tax returns or any other paperwork related to government services.

And most Bermudians will agree that it’s in everyone’s best interest to have one set of rules to make sure those services are provided fairly and equally to everyone, protecting every opportunity for Bermudians.

Last year more than 50 work permit applications were rejected.

If Government begins making exceptions in one case, then what’s to prevent each one of those applicants expecting government to make an exception for them?

In 2014, the Government set out to end the exceptions and unwritten rules that had undermined the administration of work permits. Consultations took the better part of a year and involved the Labour Advisory Council, including BIU President Chris Furbert, with no concerns raised in respect of Pastors. The policy today is fair and transparent, with processes in place for all to follow.

The 2014 reforms made it very clear that all work permit applicants had to advertise. There is a provision for a waiver of advertising if the applicant was, for example, a CEO or a manager of a hotel over a certain number of beds. There is no automatic waiver for any religious denomination on the Island. Pastoral positions have been regularly advertised since the policy came into effect and all denominations have complied.

The fact is that in this case, as in every renewal case, the applicant was asked to meet two simple requirements: Advertise the position and fill out the application form on time, accurately and completely. Neither of these requirements is complicated or time-consuming.

While there are those who argue that these policies are treating one person unfairly, we are confident most Bermudians agree that these laws are in place to ensure that everyone is treated equally and fairly

As a Government we are committed to guaranteeing that the rights of Bermudians get the highest priority when it comes to each and every opportunity available in their homeland.

- Cole Simons

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