Foreign Labour Crackdown

Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson said his ministry has tightened policies for granting labor certificates to foreign workers and has put mechanisms in place to ensure employers have identified suitable Bahamian understudies for these positions.

“I believe that maybe 100 percent of the persons who apply for labor certificates already know who they want to hire,” Gibson told reporters at his office on Meeting Street. “That’s why they apply for it.

“In the case of offshore banking for instance, you may have what they call a client relations manager, where they have relationships with high-end clients all over the world, so even though they may advertise locally to satisfy our labor laws they know who it is they want to bring.”

Gibson explained what his ministry is doing to curtail the issuance of labor certificates and to ensure that Bahamians are trained for positions held by foreigners.

“What we also do is we make sure that in cases where there is not a Bahamian qualified and able to fill the position, then we have them identify an understudy and we say within a year, two, three or four-year period we expect that the understudy would be ready to take over this position.

“In the past what would happen is we would say it, but nobody would follow through. Now we are actually putting the mechanism in place to make sure we are following through straight to the end, so once they come back for renewal we are able to get a progress report to say exactly where they are in terms of the understudy being ready to assume the position.”

Gibson also affirmed his government’s commitment to creating thousands of new jobs in this term.

While on the campaign trail, MP for Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador Philip Brave Davis promised that a Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government would create 10,000 immediate jobs.

Gibson said luxury resort Baha Mar, set for a 2014 opening, is expected to hire 4,000 people.

He added that The Reef Village Resort, currently being renovated in Grand Bahama, will hire 1,000 workers.

“We are looking at several other projects that should create some jobs,” Gibson said.

“Jobs are not created overnight and even sitting down with foreign direct investors and reviewing their plans — whatever they propose to do in The Bahamas — takes time.

“This is only year one even though persons are anxious now than they were back then, simply because you have more persons unemployed now than back then.

“So people are not as patient, particularly when they are facing life-changing situations where for the first time they are not working, in some cases there is not one individual in a house working.

“We understand the challenge we are facing. If we are able to deliver then it will be good for us; if we are not then we know what will happen. We feel we are on schedule to do some things.

“It’s only been a year. The term is five years, so what you don’t do on day one, you do on day two, on day three and so we have some time to get some things done.”

The government plans to roll out its national training program as early as June and has identified a building on Gladstone Road to house its training academy, Gibson said.

This scheme will assess workers’ skills shortages and train Bahamians for employment opportunities at the Baha Mar resort, among other places.

By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter