Eight members of the Council of Associations, which represents Cayman’s major private industry sectors, supported a letter to the Chairman of the Immigration Review Team recommending consideration for six key actions concerning the seven-year term limit and Permanent Residency policies.
The letter, which was signed by Council of Associations Chairman Angelyn Hernandez, was sent on 18 May and was supported by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, the Cayman Contractors Association, the Cayman Islands Insurance Association, the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, the Cayman Islands Fund Administers Association, the Cayman Association of Architects, Surveyors and Engineers, and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
The Council accepts the premise that the term-limit policy is an effective method of protecting the interests of Caymanians, it said in the press release.
‘But there is genuine concern and fear of the future of certain business sectors because of the ability to attract and maintain professionals and skilled workers which are in short supply locally and globally.’
One primary recommendation suggested is for any business to be able to identify a minimum percentage of its staff as being core to its operations and therefore exempted from the fixed-term policy, a press release issued Friday afternoon said.
‘Studies have shown that any business must be able to retain at least 25 per cent of its staff if it is to continue or have a chance of survival,’ the press release stated.
Ms Hernandez said in an interview Friday that the Council was not necessarily recommending the Immigration Review Team adopt the 25 per cent figure, just that a minimum percentage be established.
The Council would like the percentage, whatever the minimum would be, to allow for the exemption of both key positions and key employees.
Ms Hernandez said the positions exempted would address the overall structure of a firm and could also include Caymanians.
Other key recommendations by the Council included clarifying the definitions of any exempted person and exempted positions in the Law to prevent subjective rulings; extending the period for applying for temporary fixed term permits from 31 December 2006 until 1 December 2007; recognition for business that invest in Caymanians and the wider community in the handling of their Business Staffing Plans; an evaluation of the impact on the term limit policy on other employment legislation such as the National Pensions Law and severance provisions of the Labour Law; and a review of the point system for grant of Permanent Residency to give all persons of whatever sector a fair and identifiable chance of qualifying.
‘The gist of (the letter to the IRT) really is that we want certainty without any guessing as to what is the rules are,’ said Ms Hernandez. ‘It’s the confusion that’s creating a lot of the havoc now.’
Ms Hernandez said the extension of the temporary fixed term work permits was necessary.
‘Nine months will not be sufficient for many businesses to wrap things up, recruit and retrain,’ she said, adding that there is already a provision in the Immigration Law with regard to temporary fixed term permits that states the extra time does not count toward qualifying for permanent residency, so there was no real drawback.
Ms Hernandez said there was good reason to consider favourable treatment on Business Staffing Plans for certain companies.
‘The government is always saying it wants businesses to invest in Caymanians and train them,’ she said. ‘If you’re a good corporate citizen, perhaps you should be treated like a good corporate citizen.’
The fixed term policy also brings up questions about legislation like the National Pensions Law, including why expatriates subject to the seven-year fixed term policy must be enlisted in pension plans, and why, if they are enlisted, they should not be able to withdraw their funds for two years, Ms Hernandez said.
The Council of Associations requested a meeting with IRT Chairman David Ritch prior to the final preparation of the discussion draft law, which is scheduled to be completed this month.
‘At this late stage, he suggested that further discussion is deferred until the draft law is released for public consultation.
‘The Council of Associations strongly recommends a reasonable period of consultation so that the industry associations and general public are given sufficient time to review the document and to offer input and constructive advice.’
The Council said it would reflect badly on Government if democracy was removed from the process in the final hour.
The Government has said it wants to bring the new Immigration Law amendments to the House in the next meeting, which is scheduled to begin on 28 July.