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Pinder: We Could Cut 20,000 Work Permits

LABOUR Director John Pinder.

LABOUR Director John Pinder.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Tribune Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

THE government’s push to tackle unemployment and crack down on immigration issues must factor in scrutiny of work permit approvals, Department of Labour Director John Pinder said yesterday.

According to Mr Pinder, more than 40,000 work permits have been granted in the country; he thinks that number should be cut in half to really put a dent in unemployment figures. He also said officials have been finding that work permit applicants are not being completely truthful about the roles labourers are taking.

Mr Pinder said in his two years as director of the department, he has not approved any labour certificates for Haitian cooks. But officials have observed many Haitian nationals cooking in restaurants, he said.

Mr Pinder told The Tribune the majority of certificates have been given for gardening, handymen and similar jobs.

Of every 100 work permits up for approval, the director said maybe 10 are for a business whereas the remaining 90 percent are for individuals, leading him to question the prevalence of Haitian cooks.

He was contacted a day after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis told Parliament that Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson was instructed to form a “strike force”, which will aggressively pursue undocumented migrants in the country.

Meanwhile, Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip “Brave” Davis said the prime minister appeared to continue his “campaigning” posture. He said despite Dr Minnis repeatedly making similar comments, no one could place a finger on actions that have ensued.

Dr Minnis also said foreigners granted work permits would be replaced where it was found Bahamian understudies had not been trained to take over those roles.

Asked to explain how much of an issue this has been, Mr Pinder said: “(It is) not that great of an issue, but it is a great concern in terms of the work permit keeps being renewed and if a person is not given an extension then that organisation wants to bring a new person in.

“To me if we really are going to put a dent in this unemployment rate we have to look at the 40,000 plus work permits that are out there. I believe we could really cut that in half.

“At some point we are able to cut this unemployment rate down a bit in addition to the new initiatives that the government has on the drawing board with foreign investors. I think it can come down by at least six or seven percent, I support that.

“People think that the government has to create 20,000 or 30,000 new jobs (but) there are jobs there.”

He continued: “I can also tell you this, my biggest concern is the amount of Haitians that we give work permits to. I can tell you that is a concern I have.

“…First of all the employer only wants to pay minimum wage and $210 is big money to a Haitian. They have no problem with that.

“They normally apply for handymen, gardeners and jobs they figure they know the Bahamian will not accept for $210 a week and it’s quite a bit of them.

“But I also say I know there are a number of Haitians who work in kitchens around restaurants in the Bahamas. I have never, and I have been in the chair almost two years now, I have never approved a cook for a labour certificate, so I don’t know how they could be cooking in these kitchens around the place.

“Whenever they come here for a labour certificate it is for gardening (and) handymen, those sorts of things. They don’t ever ask for one for a cook. I have never for two years had an application come for a Haitian cook.

“They are applying for handymen and end up on Arawak Cay or wherever else cooking.”

Regarding how the government will deal with the issue of understudies for work permit holders, the matter has now gone before the National Tripartite Council after the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce expressed concern over how the process will work.

Last month, Mr Pinder said he wanted employers’ work permits revoked if they failed to appoint and properly train apprentices.

Mr Pinder said he believed the chamber had got the “wrong impression”.

“They got the impression that I as director of labour was trying to suggest that every work permit is supposed to have an understudy. That’s not the case. The application form asks you if you have an understudy.

“When you name the understudy is when we go after you and say ‘Okay you named someone we want to see the understudy programme. What have you put in place for this person to receive the training?’

“This is not nothing new,” he also said. “This is something that has been in place but we have not been transparent with it. We ask you if you name an understudy who is it? We are now following up with the understudy just to prove if the person is receiving the training to replace persons.”

He said at this point the Tripartite Council has the issue on its agenda and has committed a subcommittee to do a fact-finding report.

“Most of the ground work has already been done. It’s just a matter of looking at it, critiquing it and determining that it’s something that we can live with.

“We keep talking about brain drain because our students who go overseas to study don’t come back home because they can’t find gainful employment or they can’t find nothing to match their discipline.

“I have no problem with cross-training because there are a number of Bahamians in other parts of the world who are cross-training for key positions. But I am saying when you want to hold a key position in the Bahamas and there is a Bahamian who can hold that position then I think the Bahamian ought to be given the position,” Mr Pinder said yesterday.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 9 months ago

Just cut the thousands and thousands of work permits that Hubert Minnis, Elsworth Johnson, Frankie Campbell and Darren Henfield have wrongfully arranged to be issued to illegal Haitian aliens since Hurrican Dorian.

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immigrant 9 months ago

Who you gonna replace us with John? The people that can't figure out how to bring their own bags to the store?

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proudloudandfnm 9 months ago

KML!!!!!! BEST REPLY EVER!!!

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Dawes 9 months ago

Government needs to decide what message it wants to put out. On the one hand you have them desperate for FDI which will naturally lead to work permits. On the other they say they want to get rid of work permits. So which one is it. I know one thing, in the financial industry whilst the black listing hurts, off the cuff statements from Government members on immigration will do more to let a potential investor decide Cayman, BVI or others are a better choice then anything else. The Government needs to all be on the same page and then go with it, and realize things they say to local people and local press make its way onto the internet and therefore the world. On the issue with cooks, if there are no work permits issued, then raid those restaurants and deport those who are working without the correct work permits AND throw the employer into jail until a large fine has been paid. if you don't do that ain't nothing going to change.

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sheeprunner12 9 months ago

John Pinder should tell us WHO owns these 40,000 work permits …….. SMT

That is the big gorilla in the country ………… Who are these people working in our country, while our young professionals leave the country and do not come back after college?????

And when our youth reach Grade 9 and cannot pass BJCs, it is time to send them to Technical High Schools for skills training ……… not taking up space in these public babysitting centres.

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proudloudandfnm 9 months ago

John says we can cut 20,000. Actual number is probably more like 200. This man just makes stuff up. Someone please take the mic from him....

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jus2cents 9 months ago

Smoke and mirrors blaming foreigners is an old ploy governments use to polarize and influence people voting.

Blaming people on work permits for their own mismanagement of the country is a total cop out.

If the government did what they are supposed to at immigration, speed up the process, make workers feel secure to come and GO and you wouldn't have any immigration issues.

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TalRussell 9 months ago

Unfortunately, even eyes the comrade labour leader are unsure?
Any reporting actual number active Work Permits is a well-guarded cabinet file - kept concealed away from colony's much too nosy PopulacesOrdinary - but reliable sources say the number can be on north side 28,333 currently active work permits - with many employers still in debt to the government for the fees?

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bogart 9 months ago

20,000.....30,000....40,000...???.. Work Permits. on small Sovereign Nation ...most populated island 7 x 21 miles and on few other islands. The impact on the nation and the lives of the Work Permit workers and their families on the nation needs to be thoroughly examined. The occasional outbursts are just crap coming from govt paid salaried employees who supposed to have the best interests of the nation.

40,000 Work Permit holders...??? Seems to be a formidable force, majority just in limbo idle hands, floating trying for next job.

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Chucky 9 months ago

For every expat I have to let go, I will be firing 10 Bahamians who can work without the technical supervision.

It’s your choice you joker politicians

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SP 9 months ago

FINALLY...John Pinder is addressing this "non-essential" ex-pat work permit issue that negatively affects the country nationally on several levels.

Hubert Ingraham, Perry Christie, and Brent Symonnette are the 3 stooges responsible for inundating the country with non-essential ex-pat workers mainly because between the three of them they were incapable of managing and stimulating sustainable economic growth.

In their combined wisdom, they decided selling $40M+ in work permits for immediate gains was a solution to raising badly needed capital. However, they never stopped to consider the longterm negative financial impact of 30,000+ mostly blue-collar ex-pats for the most part not contributing to the local economy AND repatriating huge portions of earnings to home countries.

Simonette, Ingraham, and Christie unwittingly created the biggest unemployment disaster causing the contraction of the commercial banking sector in our history!

Obviously, the Minnis administration and John Pinder recognize this failure and are looking into reversing the problem by getting rid of all "non-essential" ex-pats holding jobs that Bahamians are qualified to do.

The keywords here are "Bahamians qualified" to do!

Haitians, Filipinos, and Latinos working in domestic capacities regardless of academics are totally unacceptable. No Bahamian could get a work permit in the Philippians for domestic labor or anything else a Filipino can even remotely do.

The bottom line is, the Bahamas doesn't have to reinvent the wheel with the ex-pat issue. The Cayman Islands has an efficient immigration protocol that we could adapt.

A Bahamian business cannot demand a change in immigration laws in another country. Any company that doesn't want to abide by our immigration laws should be expeditiously shown the exit door!

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Chucky 9 months ago

Correct, a bahamian could not get a domestic labour work permit in the Philippians. Notice, in contrast to the bahamas, their people will do this work.

Also notice, you have migrant hatian, jamaican, bajan, workers all over, but you dont see migrant bahamian workers around the region,because our people don't work.

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The_Oracle 9 months ago

Wow, all of a sudden I'm back in '70-73........... I agree with Chucky, for every expat chased out 10 Bahamians will lose jobs, and decent paying jobs too. I cannot believe we the people gobble up and succumb to this ancient broken record. Why not just cancel tourist visas? more direct and to the point for your Xenophobic garbage.

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