At least two Caymanian housekeepers at a condominium development have gotten their jobs back after government officials claimed those positions were outsourced in spite of a long-standing policy.
Tourism Minister Charles Clifford said during a Thursday press briefing that he believed at least 12 housekeepers at Regal Beach and Lacovia condos had lost their jobs last month.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said members of the Trade and Business Licensing Board recently removed restrictions that barred janitorial firms from providing housekeeping services to hotels, condos, or other tourist accommodations. He said Cabinet was not aware of that decision.
Mr. Tibbetts said a letter was being drafted to be sent to board members asking them to rescind that change in policy, which he said had been in place since the 1990s. Several government agencies were also investigating the properties to determine if there had been regulatory breaches.
‘The government will not allow the outsourcing of housekeeping jobs to occur where we have willing and capable Caymanians doing those jobs,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.
Government officials were advised Wednesday that Regal Beach Condos had reversed its decision to lay off housekeeping staff and had rehired two former staffers. Mr. Tibbetts said more could be rehired in the future. He said there was also a decision made to pay any overtime owed to the former workers.
The government had not gotten an update from Lacovia as of Thursday. The Caymanian Compass was unable to contact management of either condo complex by press time. The properties have not commented on previous enquiries by the newspaper into the situation.
Mr. Tibbetts acknowledged it was an unusual step for the government to intervene in a private business’s decision regarding its employees, however he said this specific prohibition regarding housekeeping staff at tourism properties has been in place for some time.
‘There were many women who have worked within that sector for many years,’ he said. ‘What started to happen — larger companies — started to infiltrate within those properties and the property owners would simply say ‘my life is easier because…I can contract with a firm.’
‘In some cases you could say it’s an easy way out.’
He said he believed the board’s decision to remove the prohibition on using janitorial firms to outsource housekeeping jobs in the tourism sector was not ill intended. He said from the board’s perspective, they were looking at protecting small businesses.
But he said the ramifications for the housekeeping workers were too great.
‘We have to protect them,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘It is not easy for them to find other jobs at this point and time in their lives.’
‘Our economy…is competition, demand and supply. But in this instance we know that it is our duty and we know that we are right.’