A Cabinet minister yesterday confirmed the Government will now “enforce” requirements for employers to identify a Bahamian understudy before labour certificates permitting the hiring of expatriate workers are approved.
Pia Glover-Rolle, minister of labour and the public service, told the Office of the Prime Minister’s weekly media briefing that the Davis administration will be creating a "new task force" to oversee policies requiring companies to identify a Bahamian understudy to expatriate employees so they can replace them when work permits expire.
She pledged that her ministry and the Department of Labour are ready to “take on the big challenges to drive progress, and to improve the lives of Bahamians, which is always a priority.
“I'm proud to announce that we are planning the formation of a new unit, just a few days into my new portfolio, that will enforce the law of The Bahamas as it relates to our notice of vacancy process and understudy policies," Mrs Glover-Rolle said.
“Employers are advised that all applications for labour certificates will be carefully reviewed to ensure that, where applicable, a Bahamian understudy must be identified before that application is processed. So this new task force will be following up to ensure that the identified Bahamian is receiving the training that they were promised, so they can eventually assimilate into the role. You can expect to see this unit fully come into force within the next six months or so.”
An employer must advertise a vacant post in a daily newspaper for at least three days before it can apply to the Department of Labour for a labour certificate - a mandatory stem that must be fulfilled before a work permit application can be submitted to the Department of Immigration for an expatriate hire. If the labour certificate application is approved, the employer is required to present a copy of the receipt so it can be issued.
There is nothing in the Employment Act or the Immigration Act that requires an employer to have an under study identified as a pre-requisite before applying for a labour certificate. However, the minister does have the authority to make policy in this regard as they see fit.
Mrs Glover-Rolle said: “The current notice of vacancy process calls for you to require an applicant, who was a foreign applicant, to identify, or for the company to identify, an understudy. That is a component that is critical.
"We will now be putting in place an enforcement policy, which speaks to ensuring that the understudy is identified is an actual understudy; is able to engage in training; the period that is noted on the application; and that there is an actual course of action. So that, at the end of the period where the foreign worker would have been allowed, the Bahamian understudy is able to successfully assimilate into the role.”
She implied that there has been no enforcement and accountability in the labour certificate process, which is why the new policy is being implemented to ensure the Department of Labour is protecting Bahamian workers.