Labour and pensions changes by 30 June

A wholesale reorganisation of entities governing Cayman’s labour and pension systems that was at least partially recommended in a consultant’s report more than three years ago should occur by the end of government’s budget year, Employment Minister Rolston Anglin said.

Mr. Anglin announced the proposed reworking of the current Department of Employment Relations and the National Pensions Office in 2009 and said Friday that he hoped to have the changes in place before the next fiscal year, which starts on 1 July.

In addition to the department reshuffle, Mr. Anglin said he was hoping to bring several changes to the country’s Labour Law that were in line with some recommendations contained in the 2007 consultant study done by Samuel J. Goolsarran.

“Since first taking office, we received a list of about 15 changes that [the department] has been asking us to do for about five years now,” Mr. Anglin said. “Most are in line with the Goolsarran review.”

Among the legal changes likely to be proposed is a provision to allow administrative fines for companies that are found to be in violation of the country’s Labour Law.

Now, all such matters must be brought before the Labour Appeals Tribunal and can be appealed further to the Grand Court.

“We need to put a mechanism in place that allows us to deal with labour infractions administratively and more efficiently,” Minister Anglin said. “The system is working OK now, but I think we can do a better job.”

The current system encourages employers and the labour board to enter “conciliation mode” when certain situations may not warrant it, Mr. Anglin said.

Other changes suggested in the 2007 Goolsarran review included:

An adoption of a minimum wage rate for the Cayman Islands. The review did not set a specific amount for that base wage rate.

A shortening of the current maximum work week from 45 hours to 40 hours.

The elimination of a provision that lets employers pay workers straight time rates for overtime work as long as those workers sign a waiver agreeing to it.

Eliminating a 12-week cap on severance pay for laid-off workers.

The physical separation of the Labour Appeals Tribunal from the Department of Labour.

A proposal to quash the cap on severance pay was approved by Cayman Islands lawmakers on Monday.

Premier McKeeva Bush also said Monday that his government would bring proposals for a minimum wage sometime in June.

Mr. Anglin has told the Caymanian Compass that he would not be opposed to the introduction of a minimum wage as long as such a plan was considered carefully.

Mr. Anglin did not state whether he would support any of the other recommendations in the Goolsarran report, but he said most of the suggestions being pursued by the ministry would be “uncontroversial”.

Reorganising

The Goolsarran report initially suggested that the Cayman Islands Department of Labour be split into four sections. Mr. Anglin’s ministry is not following that plan exactly.

Rather, he said a new Department of Labour and Pensions will be formed to solely deal with cases where private sector employers were alleged to have committed violations of the country’s pensions and labour laws.

The regulation of investment, business plans, finances and licensing of pension funds will be moved away from the National Pensions Office and switch to the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority.

A separate Human Capital Development Agency will be formed to include a job placement centre, career counselling, the Passport to Success programme, and – eventually – the scholarship secretariat, which plans to add a few new workers before the end of the year, Mr. Anglin said.

“The Department of Employment Relations…instead of sticking with what is labour, we have an agency that is trying to deliver two completely different skill sets [enforcement and job training],” he said.

The minister has still not said what will happen to the National Pensions Board, but he said there will still be a need for the Labour Tribunal going forward.

With the exception of the scholarships programme, Mr. Anglin said the changes prompted by the reorganisation should be delivered in a “cost-neutral” way.