Members of the Legislative Assembly
voted unanimously to support a motion to establish a committee to look into
making certain jobs available only to Caymanians.
The private member’s motion,
brought by the United Democratic Party’s George Town MLA Ellio Solomon met with
support from all members who were present at Wednesday’s vote, although some
lawmakers pointed out pitfalls involved in making some jobs Caymanian-only.
Mr. Solomon insisted the motion was
not about pitting Caymanians against foreigners, or vice versa, and that he
understood the importance of a “harmonious”, integrated society in Cayman.
He said the Constitution already
stipulated certain jobs be designated as Caymanian only, specifically the 15
elected members of the Legislative Assembly and the appointed position of the
The motion called for the
establishment of a committee to take “a careful, judicious look at what other
jobs should be for Caymanians, whether it is going to be the public service,
whether it is going to be statutory authorities or whether it is going to be
specific jobs within the private sector,” Mr. Solomon said.
The UDP backbencher said if it was
important for MLAs and the Deputy Governor to be Caymanians, then the same may
apply for other positions such as the Chief Immigration Officer or “the person
who checks the Islands’ water reserves”.
His colleague Dwayne Seymour, who
seconded the motion, said there was no longer a level playing field for
Caymanians seeking jobs locally. “We are not saying we don’t need outside help
or expertise… What we are saying is, if we can do the job, then no one else
should do it,” Mr. Seymour said.
Minister of Education, Training and
Employment Rolston Anglin said this would not be the first time that industries
had made positions available to Caymanians, adding that he had trained as an
accountant at a time when legislators insisted that accounting firms hire
locals for entry-level staff accountant positions, although there was no
official legislation relating to this in place.
The minister said he believed there
were “certain industries and certain professions within industries that are
ripe for this type of public policy”, adding that the job market has changed to
a point whereby employers now wanted to hire “turnkey” employees who are
already trained and could immediately contribute to a business.
Mr. Anglin added that a policy that
designated certain jobs as being for Caymanians could not be implemented
overnight and that research and recommendations from a committee would lead to
“mature and rational debate”.
“Even when the research is done and
submitted to government, you still have to have sensible and natural
implementation that would make sense for businesses. That is a huge
consideration. Without businesses, we can’t have jobs,” he said.
Leader of the Opposition, Kurt
Tibbetts, in his part of the debate of the motion, said the government would
have to consider a myriad of issues before implementing such a policy.
While he said he supported the
motion, he questioned the practicality of making some jobs available only to
Caymanians, asking, for example, how the system would work for spouses of
Caymanians who were awaiting Caymanian status.
“There are many… considerations
we have to make in making any determination, but the aspiration is one that we
all have to say yes to, because… all of us would want to find a way which
would give our own people a certain edge to guarantee them certain levels of
livelihood to be able to share in this success story,” Mr. Tibbetts said.
The former minister of employment
Alden McLaughlin of the PPM said there could be no future for Cayman that did
not include those who were from here. “If that is the case, then what is the
point of all of this for our people? This is not an easy question to address.
If it were, it would have been addressed a long, long time ago,” he said.
He said he had concerns about
certain jobs being made available only for Caymanians, but agreed that the
issue was one that needed to be discussed.
Querying whether there were
sufficient numbers of Caymanians who wanted to fill the relevant positions, he
said there needed to be an “extensive and careful survey” before such a policy
could be put in place.
“If, in fact, we could get the
system, which currently exists, to work better so that each case and each
instance is looked at and followed up, that would be, I believe, a much better
way, but that system has not been the effective machine we have wanted it to be
for 40 years,” Mr. McLaughlin told members of the House.
Debate on the motion, which was
introduced last week in the Legislative Assembly, concluded on Wednesday.
Mr. Solomon told lawmakers that the
motion itself was just a proposal for the government to consider, but he felt
that it was necessary to debate “just to make sure we are providing
opportunities for our people”.
Premier McKeeva Bush, a long-time
opponent of what he referred to Wednesday as ‘over-nationalism’, thanked Mr.
Solomon for bringing the motion and noted the proposal was indeed worthy of
“This whole matter of training of
Caymanians has dogged every government,” Mr. Bush said, recalling the
legislative battles he took part in during the 1980s that eventually led to the
introduction of Cayman’s Labour Law. “Lest people think that we have done
nothing, they should really check what we have done,” the premier said,
regarding training and education of the local workforce which the establishment
of bygone days “did not support”. “We
still have not succeeded, but we have come a long way,” he said.
Despite his kind words to Mr.
Solomon, Mr. Bush warned against Caymanian “feelings of entitlement” that he
said appeared to have grown over the years, particularly in recent times as the
economy has worsened.
“We can’t continue to build up the
expectations if they can’t be reached,” he said.
Mr. Bush said the biggest obstacle
to Caymanian advancement in the short term was the country’s economy. He added
that Cayman’s failing immigration policies need to be addressed as part of the
plan to jump-start economic development efforts.
As of 30 June, there were more than
21,000 expatriates in Cayman on work permits, government contracts or working
as an operation of law (awaiting applications for permanent residence or work