Bahamas Minister: Foreign Workers Not Welcome

Shane Gibson
'Shameless' Shane Gibson

Minister of Labour and National Insurance, Shane Gibson who, as Minister of Immigration was once accused of fast-tracking Anna Nicole Smith’s residency permit in exchange for “favours”, says he is putting companies in The Bahamas “on notice” that work permits for foreign employees will now be “systematically denied”.

Companies who currently have foreigners on staff must send “justification” for every employee they have on work permit to the government, Gibson says.

Using the Bahamas Telecommunication Company (BTC) as an example, Gibson said he found it “offensive” that the company has 40 foreign employees, implying that the company should not hire the best people available but, rather, should hire less talented Bahamians to operate the telecommunications company.

Also attacking the Grand Bahama Power Company, Gibson questioned why the power company would have to hire foreigners, disregarding the fact that those foreigners are experts.  Gibson would rather the company hire Bahamians who may not be experts, or who might have little experience in the field.

“I’m now instructing the Labour Department to contact these employers, let them know I want them to send me a justification for every single individual they have on work permit and give me a time-frame as to when these individuals will be out of the Bahamas and these jobs will be turned over to Bahamians,” Gibson ranted.

“…we will not be issuing labour certificates,” Gibson added.

Representatives from companies who employee foreign employees said they already provide the required documentation, that is how they received their permits in the first place.

The Tribune newspaper reported that Ed Fields, the senior vice president of public affairs and retail services for Kerzner International said: “We already provide that information as normal course of application. Every application that we make to the Ministry of Labour and Immigration has to, as per requirement, provide a justification. We’ve always done that as a matter of process as required the Department of Immigration.”

Kerzner is the nation’s largest private employer and contributes substantially to the Bahamas economy.

A representative for Baha Mar, whose multi-bilion dollar development on Cable Beach is also being counted on to help save the Bahamas economy, made a similar comment:

“Baha Mar has a Heads of agreement that speaks to certain work permits that will be required as a result of our project,” said Robert Sands, senior vice-president of administration and external affairs, according to The Tribune.

Also responding to the paper’s inquiries was senior manager of public relations for BTC, Jerome Sawyer, who noted that 99 per cent of the company’s employees are Bahamian and current employees on work permits already have time-frames and justifications.

Gibson’s remarks may play well with unemployed Bahamians and his core of xenophobic supporters but they will echo around the world as a sure sign that foreigners are not welcome in The Bahamas.

Hopefully, Mr Gibson still plans on allowing tourists.