The rollover policy will not allow for the Caymanianisation of the workforce without a massive commitment to education, training and enforcement by both the Caymanian public and Government agencies.
That was the loud and clear message to Cayman’s youth at a public consultation Monday examining the issues surrounding the rollover policy.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts has said rollover’s purpose is to break the stay of work permit holders to prevent large numbers of people being granted long-term security of tenure in accordance with the provisions of the European Convention on Nationality.
But because of its impact on the employment market, the Immigration Law may also bring new opportunities for Caymanians willing to take on a challenge.
Immigration Chief Franz Manderson, Manderson reiterated that when the numbers of people on perpetually renewable work permits began to soar, the new law was implemented in 2004 to set term limits for seven years, and the first group of affected expatriates is now seeing its consequences.
Director of Employment Relations Walling Whittaker explained that the law addressed a need to set out expectations for employees and employers.
He said he saw a further spin-off, which would allow Caymanians in training for positions occupied by expatriates a window of opportunity to step up and be noticed.
Mr. Manderson said the Immigration Board had been doing its best to publicize the new law, and took the unprecedented step of renewing every work permit in 2004 as a way to make sure every employer was aware of the new rules.
‘The government has done and is continuing to do what it was charged to do,’ he said.
Mr. Whittaker said the only reason for any shock within the workforce was because people had chosen to ignore the law’s significance.
‘The reason for the current situation is a failure to plan. Where were all the human resources departments when this law was put into place? Why weren’t they planning for it then?’ he said.
Mr. Whittaker said a lot of Caymanians are somehow expecting to benefit from the term limit policy simply on the merit of their status.
‘We as a people have to put education and training and enforcement of the rollover’s objectives at the top of our list, otherwise it all amounts to zero with regard to the benefits Caymanians will see,’ he said.
The comments and issues raised also revealed that the rollover may not work in the way certain people will expect.
Ms Scott said that while the law targets work permit holders, espousing an ‘us and them’ mentality is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
‘The effects of this rollover reach many people in many ways, and we should be looking to better communicate with the people who might be affected to see what we can do to make it work to our advantage,’ she said.
Mr. Manderson wants the rollover to have a positive impact, be implemented correctly and the right numbers of the right kinds of people allowed to remain; doing it wrong could have future negative effects on the country.
Mr. Whittaker agreed, saying that any law forcing an employee to leave will place the employer in some difficulty no matter what, but negative effects could be mitigated by proper employment planning.
But he warned that the makeup of the workforce would not change if the will was not there on the part of Caymanians.
He cited the example of higher education, a basic requirement for the Island’s higher-paying jobs, where Employment Department studies have shown that Caymanians are outnumbered by work permit holders often three to one 1 in Bachelor’s and Graduate degrees and professional designations.
‘Until we close that gap, we’ll still be sitting here in seven years talking about the same things,’ he said. ‘The picture of the future depends on us.’
Ms Scott stressed that education is an opportunity, not a guarantee, outlining her own experience of achieving the position she has today through a lot of support, luck and hard work.
‘No one is taking our jobs, we just have a problem training ourselves. Caymanian status should never be a qualification for getting a job,’ she said.
‘If someone said to me that I would get a job only because I am Caymanian, I would be ashamed and not accept it, as it discredits all the money and effort that so many people have invested in me to get me where I am today.’