Bran: Bahamian 'Work Ethic Is Bad'


Branville McCartney


Tribune Business Editor


A former Immigration minister yesterday argued that many Bahamians simply fail to take advantage of available employment opportunities because "their work ethic is bad".

Branville McCartney, the ex-Democratic National Alliance's (DNA) leader, told Tribune Business that the prime minister's floated solution for better skills/knowledge transfer between expatriate hires and Bahamian understudies was "good in theory, but very difficult in practice".

Responding after Dr Hubert Minnis suggested that expatriate workers should be replaced by other foreign hires should they fail to properly train a Bahamian replacement before their visa expires, so as to prevent them establishing long-term "roots" in this nation, Mr McCartney reiterated that any "understudy" policy should be applied on a case-by-case basis rather than across-the-board.

Pointing to numerous "intricacies", not least the cost to Bahamian employers from having to cover two salaries and uncertainty over whether understudies will "stick it out" through their probationary periods, the former immigration minister under the last Ingraham administration warned a "hard and fast" application could unduly burden the private sector.

"The main reason persons are hiring foreigners is because we don't have persons here to do the job. Let's be real," Mr McCartney told Tribune Business. "It also applies to the likes of gardeners and handymen. I understand what the prime minister is saying about giving Bahamians opportunities but unfortunately they don't take the opportunity.

"They don't want to be handymen, they don't want to be gardeners and they don't want to be housemaids. You see them for one week, they get paid, and then you don't see them because they call on sick or they're in Miami.

"The work ethic is, and has been, for Bahamians simply bad. I am a proponent of Bahamians first, Bahamians having opportunities, but we also have to be realistic about the situation, where we are, and you hardly get anything done in your business or profession depending on what your call is, when you have Bahamians who don't want to work," he continued.

"They want a job, they want to get paid, but they don't want to work. I am involved in many businesses, and see it every day. What the prime minister is saying is excellent, very good in theory, but very difficult in practice to put into place. It has to be done on an individual, case-by-case basis."

Mr McCartney's remarks are likely to cause controversy, especially among Bahamian workers who allege that they have been overlooked for a position they are qualified to fill because expatriate labour is considered cheaper. University and college graduates, too, returning home from overseas often argue that they find it difficult to land an appropriate job because they are deemed to be "over-qualified".

Some observers will also argue that understudy initiatives in other countries have worked well, and there is no reason why The Bahamas cannot follow suit. Dr Minnis' comments were a variation of the theme recently voiced by John Pinder, director of labour, who said work permits will not be issued unless employers have identified a Bahamian understudy and are providing the necessary training.

The "understudy" idea has always been a government policy but it has rarely been enforced. Many Bahamians will likely be watching closely to see whether the Prime Minister's House of Assembly rhetoric translates into action or is just part of election campaign talk, with online response on this newspaper's website currently veering towards the latter.

And Mr McCartney's comments will also strike a chord with the view that many Bahamians see jobs such as gardeners, handymen and maids as ill-paid and beneath them, resulting in them refusing to take the work even if it is available and they need it. The vast majority of work permits issued by the Department of Immigration are for such posts.

"The thought of having that policy is good," the ex-DNA leader said of Dr Minnis' assertion, "because we want Bahamians to have opportunities to take advantage of certain circumstances, but the reality is that it has to be done on a case-by-case basis.

"The suggestion of having an understudy has been around for some time, but to put it into practice very difficult. Not only difficult but expensive. It calls for Bahamians who are willing to understudy, and to stick with it and work, and be committed to it.

"It also calls for the employer to be in position not only to hire the expatriate but an understudy. That calls for two salaries. In addition to that, there's no telling whether or not the Bahamian will continue beyond the understudy period. The intricacies are very difficult, very technical. It can be another burden to the businessman."

Mr McCartney said the retail pharmacy business, in which has family is invested, has struggled with a shortage of trained Bahamian pharmacists for years. Work permits for expatriate hires now stand at $9,500 per annum, and implementation of the understudy policy would create the need for an extra Bahamian worker in addition to the salary and benefits they will demand.

"It cannot work straight across the board," the ex-Immigration minister reiterated. "That's what the Immigration Board is for: To consider each case individually. We cannot be so hard and fast, determined to say this is the policy and no exceptions.

"A lot of these Immigration matters and policies are very good in theory, but when they are implemented in practice you'll see there are intricacies to each one and we have to look at them on a case-by-case basis."

Mr McCartney, though, said the Prime Minister's concerns about expatriates who entered The Bahamas on work permits or as sub-contractors, only to establish their own businesses here - some of which are in sectors reserved for Bahamian ownership only by the National Investment Policy - was a different matter.

He said such ventures should be judged on their economic and employment impact, and whether they were needed for national growth and development or not. "That's something slightly different and to be looked into," Mr McCartney added. "If the business is something we need in this country, it must be considered.

"We've seen that over the years in the construction industry, directly or indirectly. They come over, work on these hotels and then start owning their own construction business. It's a question of whether it's something we need or are trying to develop. That's how countries grow. If it's something we don't need it must be reviewed."


Chucky 5 months, 2 weeks ago

An understudy with a d average is no easier to train than a treestump

And if you do get one trained, we they done fine taking their new found knowledge to start their own gig.


Chucky 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Half the reason for an expat is attitude and willingness to work and honesty.

Sometime you’ve had a capable Bahamian who just won’t work, Branville is right.


Millennial242 5 months, 2 weeks ago

SMH...that statement really should not be used to generalize ALL Bahamians. I think this depends on the industry and HOW the employer is advertising. I know of several young Bahamians that are part-time in school and looking for landscaping and other side hustles. If you come with the mindset that "ain't no Bahamians want to do this anyways" then of course you won't even go looking in their direction. Put one of those job advertisements on instagram for a part-time gardener/handyman and I bet they will find young and idle Bahamians willing to do it. Half the time, the employers advertising in such an archaic way that they are not even connecting with the viable job seeker in the first place.


sheeprunner12 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I watch Bahamians work alongside foreigners every day ……….. the foreigners generally have goals and dreams …………. the Bahamian generally lives day to day ……….. Motivation is key difference.


ThisIsOurs 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I seriously doubt Bahamians are complaining about not having understudy opportunities with the Haitian gardener or the Filipino maid. These are complaints from persons with tertiary degrees who are overlooked for higher paying jobs and managerial positions. These are persons who are more than likely asked to transfer their knowledge to the foreign boss


Chucky 5 months, 2 weeks ago

transfer their knowledge to a foreign boss, ha ha ha ha, lol , lol, just fell out of my chair laughing. You're kidding right? Heres the main difference between a foreign professional and a bahamian professional: the foreigner got their degree, then went to work among other professionals with years of experience, they learned things from the senior employees for years. They experienced a vast array of projects in their field. The Bahamian,comes home, with little or no experience, degree in hand, and thinks theyre as qualified as everyone else. Proudly touting their degree and demanding top pay....... in reality, they have dunning kruger syndrome, and don't know it of course. Get a grip,we not only are lacking in qualified and experience people, but we also can't offer them experience, because we are such a small nation, and have so few companies and most all are small. The companies we have that are first world competative,well theyre staffed with foreign professionals.


ThisIsOurs 5 months, 2 weeks ago

"transfer their knowledge to a foreign boss, ha ha ha ha, lol , lol, just fell out of my chair laughing"

It's interesting that you don't think it's happened. I've spoken with senior management at the big hotel out west who talk about training the foreign hotdog man to be their boss. (I exaggerate with "hot dog man"). I spoke with someone else who had an interview with a foreigner at a hotel, This huge director of This and that title when I spoke with the individusl again they said, "they just like me". Meaning after couple weeks of interaction there was no evidence that the foreigner had any greater experience, they just happened to be white. This phenomenon is very common. Especially in the hotel industry also occurs in the banking industry. You see, the owners want their people in charge, it doesn't matter if the Bahamian is more qualified, they want a white face in the board room. You could argue it's their money they can do what they want, can't argue that it doesn't happen.


ThisIsOurs 5 months, 2 weeks ago

And you've actually put forward the rationale for the understudy program.


ThisIsOurs 5 months, 2 weeks ago

The health industry has operated an understudy program forever.

The understudies "apply" for the post of understudy, come with a given knowledge base and experience, are assessed on the overall potential contribution to the industry as a whole once trained, noone tells them which organization they have to work for at the end of training. They typically complete 2 years of training before they are certified at the expert level in the area of training and they are paid a subsistence salary over the training period. These programs are typically held at institutions specifically geared to training doctors, I could be wrong but I believe those institutions receive federal funding for those programs. If we want a given number of Bahamian experts why don't we use that model? That way the COUNTRY benefits, the COUNTRY decides which areas are needed and the business owner doesn't take on the burden of an extra salary. Tge only stipulation would be the induvidual must work in country fir a given period once complete...say 5 years.

Also these are people being trained to be experts, there's no you're too old. You want experience and knowledge base. And these are going to be people who work so the Bahamians lazy argument won't apply. Over time you will have created so many experts you will have Bahamians training Bahamians.

If you do as Goudie says and send them off to be trained, they're not coming back

Yes it will cost money.. but our only way out of this mess is to invest in people. We spend 130 million+ on that hotel and 95million on the bec generators with no cooling system.


bahamianson 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Thanks for the revelation, Bran. We didn't know this


DEDDIE 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Motivation is a huge factor. Take for instance a gardener. You have a Bahamian who most likely hates been a gardener and looking forward to moving on. You have a Haitian who is thrill to be working a steady job. I have tried landscaping and I lasted only one week. I was not giving a fair chance to be good at it. My boss at the time give me a pick axe and a shovel and pointed out a mountain of harden filled and told me to level it off.


Chucky 5 months, 2 weeks ago

well you just explained your own outcome, you gave up after 1 week.

You need to put your time in, do the work,learn and eventually you would become a landscaper.

You'd have to be awfully entitled in your thinking to expect that in the first week you'd be moved to a position beyond bottom of the hierarchy laborer, and delusional to think in one week you could become good at anything. You had a chance,and you failed.


bogart 5 months, 2 weeks ago

The "work ethic" needs to be expanded on and may be coming from wicked abusive slavery etc rmployers among the mix. Many handymen, gardeners, housekeepers are desperate to survive and take care of children in school and send back money to homelands. Many hard working labourers will do above and beyond to work early to after hours and not complaining no back talk, passive subservient and endure abuse. Foreign workers seems basically captive workers. Not entirely "work ethic" applied knowing if self enslaved worker to survive and send money back to dire poverty stricken family in Haiti. to survive have food, send children to school, save money to send for more dire struggling family willing to pay passage to go into ricketery boat to come. Many employers knowing the them going above and beyond two different jobs, dangerous conditions are vrry generous paying above wages. One set of controlled conditions must bear. And who will any Foreign abused employee any foreign rmployer go and complain to..but do the work harder...???...

There are other angles to look at and judging Bahamians and judging foreign Workers must be on the same terms, conditions.


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