UK electricians short-circuited

A strict interpretation of the Electricity Law is making it more difficult for Cayman contractors to hire electricians trained in the United Kingdom.

Alan Roffey, managing director of Androgroup Ltd., a major electrical contractor in Cayman, said he had five applications to Electric Licensing Board for UK electricians deferred recently, even though they were issued work permits.

‘Without these licences, the work permits we have obtained for them cannot be activated because they are issued subject to their obtaining [an electrical license],’ Mr. Roffey said.

At issue is a section of the Electricity Law (2005 Revision) that allows the ELB, at its discretion, to grant temporary licences to an electrician who holds a licence issued by a statutory body outside the Cayman Islands.

The problem for UK electricians is that their licences are issued by bodies that are not created by Statute. In England and Wales, the Joint Industry Board issues electricians’ licences, while the Scottish Joint Industry Board issues them in Scotland.

Electric licences from the JIB and the SJIB have long been accepted in the Cayman Islands as a basis for obtaining a licence here. In fact, this is not the first time this issue has come up.

‘We’ve been here before,’ said Mr. Roffey, who provided copies of correspondence from Government on the matter dating back to 1989.

‘That’s what really bothers me,’ he said. ‘It’s like everyone has collective amnesia. [The ELB] should read the file and get some legal advice.

‘The interpretation [of the Law] has to be the way it’s been done before. Nothing has changed.’

Mr. Roffey pointed out that even a member of the current ELB obtained his first Cayman electrician’s license on the basis of the accreditation of a SJIB or JIB licence.

In a letter sent to ELB chairman Robert Duty on 9 August, Mr. Roffey’s attorney Scott Wilson of Diamond Law Associates argued that just because the JIB and SJIB and are not created by Statute, it does not mean they cannot be considered statutory bodies for the purposes of the Electricity Law Regulations.

Mr. Wilson pointed out that the term ‘statutory body’ is not defined in the Legislation.

‘Therefore, on basic principles of statutory interpretation, the words ought to be given their ordinary and natural meaning,’ he said, noting that one definition of the word statutory in the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘having come to be required or expected due to being done regularly’.

Electricians coming from the UK can still obtain a licence in the Cayman Islands, but they would have to take the Electricians Trade Test first. Mr. Roffey said the problem with that is that the prospective employees have to be flown here at high expense to take a test that is designed, by law, to fail a high percentage of those who take it. It also causes delays in getting the electricians to work.

Mr. Roffey said he applied for the electricians in June, and with the deferrals, the soonest the applications can be reheard is in late September. He said two other applications put in at the same time as the other five have not been dealt with yet.

In the meantime, Mr. Roffey said his business is suffering as a result.

‘I’ve already had to send delay notices to two major clients,’ he said. ‘This is costing me money and reputation now.’

Mr. Roffey also criticised the decision to defer the applications rather than refusing them.

‘The worst thing they can do is sit there and make no clear decision,’ he said. ‘I can’t take the matter to judicial review unless they refuse the applicants.’

However, Mr. Roffey said he could take the matter to the Complaint’s Commissioner.

‘I think I have every right to do that,’ he said.

ELB Chairman Mr. Duty did not comment on the matter, but said a press release from the Ministry of Planning was expected to be issued on the matter this week.