Minister Minors On 10-Year Work Permits

November 10, 2011

Yesterday [Nov.9] in her first industry address as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Patrice Minors participated in the Bermuda Employer’s Council  “Lunch and Learn” session which attracted around 70 people.

The topic of discussion was Bermuda’s immigration regimen —  particularly as it relates to the new ten-year work permit policy which the Minister described as an “important step” in achieving the balance Bermuda needs to strike between the interests of international business and the aspirations of qualified Bermudians .

Minister Minors said, “There are many experienced non-Bermudian executives in companies who do much to contribute to the Bermudian economy and have done so for years. We want to keep these individuals thoroughly involved in investing in the Bermudian economy and we do not want to disrupt the business continuity of their organizations.”

“On the other hand, it is our responsibility to make certain that qualified Bermudians are carefully considered for jobs that become open for which they have the necessary skills and experience …

“… The 10-year work permit policy is an important step towards gaining the balance we need to strike with regards to work permit holders. However, the 10-year work permit should not be looked at in isolation. It should be linked to meeting certain criteria to make certain that those holding the permits are in positions that will help build the Bermudian economy.”

The Minister’s full remarks follow below:

Good Afternoon:

I’m pleased to join you this afternoon for this, my very first stakeholder meeting since assuming responsibility for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry exactly one week ago today.

I‘m delighted to be able, at this early stage, to hear your views as it relates to one of the more critical areas within my Ministry’s remit – work permits, term limits and related issues.

Today, technical officers will use the allotted time to provide an update on the restructuring of the organization and the implementation of the 10-year work permit.

Additionally, if time allows we will address other concerns that have been expressed in recent weeks. At the conclusion of the presentation the floor will be opened to questions and I, together with my team, will be happy to answer any additional questions that you may have.

Before I turn it over to technical officers however, please know that the Government is actively working towards putting in place the programmes, policies and legislation which are necessary to underpin economic growth and job creation. At one level, we need to evolve how we strike a balance between work permit holders and the Bermudian workforce.

There are many experienced non-Bermudian executives in companies who do much to contribute to the Bermudian economy and have done so for years. We want to keep these individuals thoroughly involved in investing in the Bermudian economy and we do not want to disrupt the business continuity of their organizations.

On the other hand, it is our responsibility to make certain that qualified Bermudians are carefully considered for jobs that become open for which they have the necessary skills and experience.

Part of the balance is for international business to create opportunities for Bermudians. One of our roles as a Government is to make certain international companies advertise posts when a work permit reaches term. This is particularly important for those knowledge workers who are seeking employment.

The current moratorium on work permits for certain job categories has created opportunities for general-skill jobs among Bermudians. But a moratorium is not the right solution for the international business sector.

International business employers understandably want to renew work permits for people who have become integral parts of their organizations over time. Experience has shown that if our work-permit policy is too strict, we run the risk of companies moving to other jurisdictions and the ‘knock-on effect’ is that we lose jobs at all levels of the work force.

The 10-year work permit policy is an important step towards gaining the balance we need to strike with regards to work permit holders. However, the 10-year work permit should not be looked at in isolation. It should be linked to meeting certain criteria to make certain that those holding the permits are in positions that will help build the Bermudian economy.

Based on the feedback I’ve heard to date, there are ongoing concerns with the 10-year work permit and the term limit policy.

These include things like the cost and the associated criteria for obtaining a 10-year work permit and also the continuance of the term limit policy generally. I’m hopeful that today’s exchange will assist in clarifying the matter and will establish a new level of understanding as we work to evolve our policies with an aim of strengthening the local economy.

I stand ready to bring a new level of energy to the task at hand.

Thank you.

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Comments (18)

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  1. Vote for Me says:

    Thank you Minister Minors,
    The most critical step is for the government to negotiate with Executives from a position of strength. The simple fact is that the businesses are here to maximise their profits. No problem there since Bermuda is, for all intents and purposes, a free market economy. A second fact is that employment is based on training, experience and the social human factor of relationships.

    The challenge is to know when the social relationship is relevant because it can never be overcome by a policy of trying to put Bermudians in certain jobs. If I am the hiring manager, I will invariably want who I want. What follows is an interview process whereby I find reasons NOT TO HIRE anyone (in many cases Bermudians) that I do not want. If we can understand that criteria, we will have a better handle on realistic expectations for hiring Bermudians.

    So what is the solution? There must be appropriate limitations on various classes of employment whenever there are qualified Bermudians to fill the jobs. Once all qualified Bermudians are employed in the relevant category, the immigration policies for the category should be fairly lenient. I am not advocating quotas or any such unsustainable process but a simple method of ensuring that all QUALIFIED BERMUDIANS are fully employed.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I am talkng about white collar jobs since there are many qualified Bermudian professinals that are either unemployed or underemployed. The PLP will not survive as a government if several of their middle class supporters remain disgruntled and unhappy about their employment prospects.

    • LaVerne Furbert says:

      Ditto to that “Vote for Me”. Daily I hear qualified Bermudians (white and blue collar) complaining about not being able to get a job in Bermuda.

      Employers must start being honest and stop saying that they cannot find qualified Bermudians.

      • Mad Dawg says:

        Some of those white-collar Bermudians would still have jobs if you hadn’t thoroughly alienated their employers over the past 13 years.

      • Guest Who? says:

        Business execs have heard your rants Ms Furbert and read your blogs.They sense and feel your distain, and when they have had the chance they move jobs off the island…forever.Check with some of the big Reinsurance companies and see how many IT on HR departments now reside in Canada,the USA and Switzerland.Bermudians sould be shocked at the loss of hundreds of these jobs.You have to understand if Expats feel unwanted and are shown no respect they will leave…forever.

        • Real Talk (original) says:

          Let’s be honest here a lot of those jobs were being shipped off-island prior to 2007 largely because of the bottom line: $$$$. It is much more cost-effective for businesses to pay somebody in Canada or the US $50k to do an job that would cost $100k here (plus housing allowance, payroll tax, etc).

          I’m not saying that Bermuda and Bermudians could not have been more welcoming, but money always talks and particularly in a recessionary economy people are interested in doing more with less. (unless you’re the Government of course).

      • Are you kidding me? says:

        We recently started a small business and employ 4 Bermudians full time and 3 part-time. To us, qualified means:

        - they want to work a 8 hour day; and occasionally weekends and public holidays
        - they show up on time
        - they have a phone that works when I need it to (Did I mention we offer a phone subsidy?)
        - they wear the clean uniform that I supply them with
        - they turn off their bb and cell phone during working hours
        - they don’t steal anything from clients or time from me
        - they won’t fight, bitch and argue at the site of a job
        - they have transportation or the unfettered ability to get from job to job
        - their language is clean and free of profanity
        - they don’t openly covet and yes beg people for things they see in their homes
        - they understand that taxes etc are non negotiable deductions, and that hours and more work is a function of how you do on this job…not just becasue you filled out an application…

        All persons who satisfy these basic qualifying criteria are hired.

    • Truth (Original) says:

      Good comments “Vote for me”. I am in the industry. From my vantage point, what I am seeing is that talented Bermudians are being hired all the time. International Businesses are competing over the brightest stars that we have. All those who are talented are placed in a company. I know of one young Bermudian that recently had 3 offers (at the same time). Talent is fundamental to the survival of any business, especially the business that we are in. As you know, irrespective of our location, we are competing over business on a worldwide stage. Saying all of that to say this;

      1) It is not always the case that Bermudians who are unemployed have been overlooked for a foreign worker. Sometimes it is other Bermudians who get the job.

      2) It is a fact that sometimes Bermudians are not qualified for the jobs that they apply for.

      3) It is a reality that amongst Bermudians, the MORE QUALIFIED, usually get hired first.

      Those facts inevitably mean that yes; Sometimes Bermudians are not successful for a variety of different reasons.

      What would be helpful to this discussion is an estimate, based on data, of how many qualified Bermudians are actually being overlooked for foreigners and whether or not the Bermudians are in fact qualified. To throw around statements like, “in most cases” or “majority of the time” has to be informed by accurate data. Without that data, what are we basing our conclusion that this is a prevalent problem on?

      I, for one, am not persuaded that the problem that we are seeing is based on Bermudians simply being overlooked. Here are some facts;

      1. It is a lot more expensive to hire foreign workers (not a good thing in this climate).

      2. The job market in here is smaller than before. That means that there are more people applying for the same jobs. It is a great time for Companies to hire really talented individuals at a fraction of the cost. (Hard and soft market principles apply).

      3. Bermudians has to be prepared to go the extra mile. The days of doing “just enough” are over. I know that there are many Bermudians who do but there are many amongst us who do not.

      I think we have to have a hard and honest look at why some people are unemployed. Sometimes it is self inflicted through unrealistic expectations and a poor attitude. I am for the Government doing what it can to stamp our poor behaviour on the part of employers but that conversation has to go the other way as well. Bermuda needs to be providing a healthy, well educated talent pool for IB to choose from and at the moment, we are not.

  2. joe says:

    Do you guys have to be so obvious in your set-up responses?

  3. MinorMatters says:

    Sooner or later, Bermudians will realize that businesses only come here to operate and make money and not to fulfil Bermuda’s social agendas. Given that sentiment, it cannot be a surprise that the businesses will find ways not to hire Bermudians. Word on the street is that hiring some Bermudians is ‘the cost of doing business here’. How many Bermudians are promoted to the Executive Committees of some of these International Businesses? It takes a cohesive effort of the IB’s and Ministry of Education to produce a curriculum that is taught as soon as possible to produce a pool of highly trained personnel from which the IB can select. It would also be helpful if a culture of value for money ethics could be developed to get rid of this wanton air of entitlement that afflicts so many Bermudians who think they are owed something. Lastly it takes a Government with tact, diplomacy and good negotiating skills to achieve a solution that benefits both the IB’s and Bermudians alike. That I haven’t seen.

    • Vote for Me says:

      @ MinorMatters
      I think we agree. Any notion that IB is here to promote or assist any Bermudian social agenda is flawed at the start. The reality however, is that the IB financial success is tied to Bermuda’s social success. If you do not believe me, just imagine the impact of a socially dysfunctional Bermuda on IB! There would be increased crime and violence, an increased level of poverty and an increased level of hostilty toward the IB workers. On this basis, there has to be the recognition of a win win solution.

      As a first step, all suitably qualified Bermudians must be gainfully employed. I emphasise suitably qualified because you must be clearly qualified to be considered for the job. At this point, I reject the general notion of lazy Bermudians. The average professional Bermudian has made a personal and financial sacrifice to gain the relevant professional designation. Given the international standing of the qualifications (law, accounting, finance, insurance etc) they would have had to meet whatever standards apply. In many cases, they obtain the qualifications while holding down a fulltime job and parental responsibilities.

      To summarise, Bermuda will never produce qualified Bermudians for all posts, but all qualified Bermudians must be employed in appropriate posts in order for IB to succeed in Bermuda. I will also go further and assert that if Bermudians are employed to their potential, there will be a marked decrease in the level of negative comments about IB since it is an economic fact that higher levels of IB presence generally benefit all Bermudians.

      Thus my original comment that any negotiations with IB must be done from a position of strength. The adage ‘I need you and you need me’ is definitely true in this instance’. We need to understand that if we get this ‘IB situation’ correct, 1 + 1 will = 3, with Bermuda and IB as the beneficiary.

      • MinorMatters says:

        @Vote for Me
        I think we agree.

        Para 1 – Agreed
        Para 2 – I take your point about rejecting the notion of lazy Bermudians. They have to do the work to qualify for their credentials. Please accept my point there are some qualified Bermudians with bad attitudes, clock watching and underperformance issues that tarnish the rest of the Bermudians. I would say all suitably qualified Bermudians should be gainfully employed.
        Para 3 – When government intervenes in the free market to dictate what investors can do with their money, therein comes the problems and Bermudians have unwittingly gotten caught in the middle. Employers try to circumvent the system and Bermudians begin to feel they have a born right to be hired. This is the area that I feel needs to be addressed in a way to produces congruent behaviors on the part of the Employers and Employees in addition to my other thoughts.

        Para 4 – Agreed.

        • Vote for Me says:

          And if we could only get the political parties and IB to have a constructive conversation, we would all be winners!!

          • Rob says:

            How can that possibly happen when you have people in Government like Col. Burch, whom will most probably end up at the front line again, ready to go another round!!! Attitudes and the BEHAVIOUR of individuals in Government have played a Major role in the final decision making of some of these IB companies. If you have a Polite Government, without an agenda towards the IB their attitudes will change immensely.

  4. Terry says:

    Oh just call the damn election.

    • Friendly Faces says:

      It really is time for a change Terry, god this island is tired.

  5. omg says:

    blah, blah blah, blah – It has to be recognized that there is not many Bda’s qualified in that field (IB). Sure there may be few bda”s for the other jobs but trying to get them to stick to the wicket is another thing.
    We need to keep the IB’s here – put the 10yr plan in place today!!!

    Wait till more loose their homes, cars etc. and then we will see what they wish to do.
    And um a onion!!!

  6. 32n64w says:

    “actively working towards”

    Yet another hollow remark from a PLP Government who habitually over promise and under deliver.

  7. Tinker tinker…poke poke…tweak tweak. Get rid of term limits…PERIOD. Oh I forgot..that will never happen. It’ll pizz off to many of the PLP base.