Long-time government workers in Cayman who are subjected to recently announced term-limits on residency will likely have years before they are actually rolled over.
That’s according to Deputy Head of the Civil Service Peter Gough, who is one of the key figures involved in drafting the new proposal.
‘We would give the same notice that the private sector got,’ Mr. Gough said Friday.
When the seven year term-limit policy for private sector expatriate workers took effect in January 2004, all those who had been on island at least five years were given an opportunity to stay long enough to apply for permanent residency. According to Cayman Islands Immigration Law, someone applying for permanent residency must have lived here for at least eight years.
Mr. Gough said the regulations being drafted in the Public Service Management Law would give additional time to civil servants who are not permanent residents, Caymanian status holders, or married to Caymanians.
‘If someone’s been here 10 years, then there would still be at least another three years before this kicks in,’ Mr. Gough said. ‘They’re going to get plenty of notice.’
Exactly which government workers will be affected by the term-limits on residency is not known. Mr. Gough said the Portfolio of the Civil Service is still trying to tally up a precise number of non-Caymanian public sector workers who have been here for seven years or more.
Right now, most civil servants are given two year contracts to work in their respective positions. But Mr. Gough said certain records that are kept by the Immigration Department on employees are not kept by the civil service.
‘For instance, non-resident civil servants who are married to Caymanians…we don’t record that,’ he said. ‘If we employed someone on a two year contract, we don’t record that they may have worked for five years in the private sector.’
Regardless of where the government employee worked during their seven years on island, Mr. Gough said they could be subjected to term-limit provisions now being drafted. He said a more exact number of non-Caymanian civil servants should be available by next month.
‘We know which departments are going to be worst affected…police, education, Children and Family Services, (the Department of) Environmental Health, and agriculture,’ he said.
However, it’s not certain that term limits will apply to all of those departments or all the workers in those departments. Mr. Gough said exemptions could be made in various cases. A final decision on exemptions is expected by early 2008.
There is also an issue of whether various statutory authorities and government companies should continue to be protected from rollover. Most entities that government has an interest in; like Cayman Airways or the Cayman Islands Water Authority, are already required to get work permits for expatriate employees. However, the Health Services Authority, and the Tourism Attractions Board are two entities that are not subject to those conditions.
After the exemptions are worked out, a date will be set for the term limits to take effect. That decision is at the sole discretion of Cayman’s governor.
The private sector term-limit policy was publicly debated for years in Legislative Assembly and elected members had the final vote on its implementation.
This will not be the case for civil servant term-limits.
The changes are being added as an amendment to the regulations of the Cayman Islands Public Service Management Law. The five elected members of Cabinet will weigh in on the issue, but their role is more advisory than that of policy-maker. Back bench and opposition members of the Legislative Assembly will not get a vote.
‘That’s simply because of the constitutional arrangement,’ Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said. ‘That constitutional arrangement would not allow the immigration law itself to filter through the civil service and its operations unless you had a section in the law which…referred to civil servants only.’
Mr. Tibbetts said his government has long been in favour of applying term limits to civil servants as well as private sector workers.
‘The civil service should not have exemptions when the entire private sector has to live by the Immigration Law,’ he said.
Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said making all government departments go through the process of getting work permits renewed each year for expatriate employees would be too cumbersome for an already over-burdened system.
‘I don’t know how many civil servants would require work permits in that scenario, but it would probably be close to a couple thousand I’m guessing,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.
Mr. McLaughlin also expressed surprise that the announcement about the civil servant term-limit policy was made during Governor Stuart Jack’s speech at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.
‘Some of us are concerned about…some degree of alarm among civil servants,’ he said. ‘But, as a matter of policy, it is what this government has advocated.’