MLAs fear ‘revolution’ is coming

Two members of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly said Thursday that they were concerned “revolution” might come to the territory if the younger, more educated people in it were not given proper opportunities at work and within the larger society.  

“Caymanians increasingly believe that they are not getting the opportunities that they deserve,” North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said during a panel debate hosted by nonprofit organisation Generation Now on Thursday evening at the Harquail Theatre in Grand Cayman.  

“I’m not talking about a dependency mentality. I’m talking about people who have gone and earned the right to have the opportunity by often-times going to other countries and enduring the cultural shocks … to get an education, come back and be told that they can’t even get an interview because it’s too easy to get a work permit.” 

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, whose People’s Progressive Movement political party has adopted a softer stance on immigration-related issues in recent years, also chimed in on the issue Thursday.  

“As important as the financial services sector is … it has to afford opportunities for Caymanians,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “All Caymanians ask for is a chance; if they don’t measure up … then they may need to find something else to do. 

“But if we don’t address that issue, as Ezzard has said, a revolution is coming.”  

Cayman Finance Chairman Richard Coles, who also participated in the Generation Now panel discussion, said he didn’t want to get into the politics of the discussion on Caymanian versus expatriate employment. However, Mr. Coles said he personally was in favour of Caymanians getting into the financial services industry and advancing “right to the very highest levels”.  

“If they’re qualified to do and capable of doing it, that’s exactly what should happen,” Mr. Coles said.  

Mr. Miller had earlier referred to a revolution in the context of frustrated and well-educated younger people who are struggling to find a place in local society. He said these talented and creative individuals were more likely to take on issues that worsened their lots in life than the poorer or under-educated individuals in a society.  

The MLAs comments curiously echoed some statements that have been appearing in various social media around the Cayman Islands for some time.  

One of the comments appeared last week on the website, posted by an anonymous writer: “I would LOVE to take some pictures to show my future grandchildren share with them the early days of the CAYMAN ISLANDS REVOLUTION when the expats tried to rule the day but we CAYMANIANS OVERCAME!!” 

Mr. McLaughlin, a successful private practice lawyer who sometime jokes that he made the “irrational” decision to go into politics, said he “understood the challenges” faced by Caymanian workers trying to succeed.  

“There is still a significant resistance in some quarters to hiring Caymanians and giving them an opportunity,” he said.  

“My wife struggled for nearly two years to get articles in a law firm, notwithstanding the face that she had a high … degree and a commendation in the professional practice course. 

“I still shake my head and wonder why is it that we can have 500-plus lawyers here … and almost every week new lawyers are being admitted even in these depressed times,” he said. 

Mr. Miller said during Thursday night’s panel discussion that part of the problem for government is that it earns so much revenue from the issuance of work permit fees and other residency permits from the Immigration Department.  

“Government’s policy is ‘we need the work permit to get the revenue,’” Mr. Miller said.  

According the Immigration Department’s own figures, more than $70 million in revenues were earned during the 2011/12 budget, mostly through the issuance of work permits.  

A proposed payroll tax on work permit holders earning at least $36,000 a year would have generated another $50 million, according to government estimates.  

That proposal has since been removed from consideration by Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush. 

McLaughlin and Miller

Members of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly Alden McLaughlin, left, and Ezzard Miller are seen outside the Legislative Assembly earlier this year. – Photo: File


  1. I agree 100% that if Caymanians are trained for, willing and capable of doing a job they should get it.

    Why are there no (or very few) Caymanian waiters, cooks, dive masters, plumbers, hair dressers?

    There should be govenment assisted further vocational education to help.

  2. Well this is a self inflicted wound.

    The real problem is, when the DER started placing anyone, in positions they were not fit for. They basically placed people in jobs they were not qualified for. Gardner is placed into a golf course as their greens keeper, and you need a college degree to take care of an entire golf course. Due to the special needs of the various grass’s. The grass ends up dying, you have to pay and fly someone in, to fix the grass, or else your business is ruined. Meanwhile still having to pay the gardner a greens keepers salary. And all the while your business is losing customers, because your golf course is turning into a mess.

    And many employers got burned, because they had to take these unqualified people in. Pay them a salary. Watch them, mess up their business, reputation and most of all. Waste their time, before they could get some one qualified.

    Now have this happen to you a few times, and that particular business is going to be less likely to hire locally.

    That is the underlying problem.

    As a business owner, you start to think, great….another employee that im going to have to pay for 6 months to a year. Only to have to fire them, because they can’t do the job.

    But I know of MANY caymanains, that when they work out well in the business. Not one complaint is heard from the employer. In fact, they become the standard role model for all other Caymanians. And if they are an exceptional fit. Rise to management levels within the company.

    There is no racism towards Caymanians as a whole, by business owners. There is a stigma about unqualified workers in the work place. Or improperly trained workers.

    No one wants to lose money. Business’s aren’t charities. People think business’s should pay to train unqualified workers to learn the job, and if that particular person doesn’t catch on, some people expect the business to do it all over again. So going back to opening sentence. Business’s aren’t charities.

    You don’t bet on the horse that always comes in last place, because some day you think he may win. You want a horse that comes out of the gate and keeps up with the rest of the runners.

    And this means, placing qualified people, into qualified fields.

    It also means, don’t expect to come out of high school and expect to earn 40K a year. Mcd’s to start, after a few years, maybe bartender. then after a few years, your first real job. pay is 35kish. You appreciate the job, cause it’s your first real good paying job. Then you move and grow from there. In 10 years time, you should be just starting into the professional arena.

    That’s how the rest of the world works.

  3. It has become too easy for friends to submit work permits and saturated the labour supply so of course the majority of waiters, waitresses are from Canada and Australia. I remember simply going out to eat at Outback and simply staff where in Canada were they from and that was years ago.

    We have enough sense to know that businesses are not charities but neither are the businesses LOOPHOLES FOR ENTRY INTO CAYMAN. After a few months many of these waiters, visiting friends etc have applied for jobs and have to be trained, I HAVE PERSONALLY HEARD expats discuss the fact that even without any experience in administrative work at all they were hired by law firms!

    IF people like bigberd and longtermresident don’t want to accept that this problem is real and there are many examples of Caymanians doing the ‘right’ thing and simply not demanding jobs and don’t even receive an interview or many many times when hired to have token Caymanian, they force Caymanians to resign…constructive dismissal, by making the environment so hostile unfriendly. SO I appeal to you guys to start facing the reality of what is happening to us in our own country.

    Also, a vocational trading course would benefit many….so would having the jobs available in the first place instead of having foreign workers who have come here with the entitlement mentality. ie I pay rent, I eat here, I took a diving course here, there was a connection with your country and mine, we’re in the same region, etc etc etc etc

    This has to stop because I agree ‘revolution is coming’…. no one is listening!

    Where is the united expat Caymanian group to stand up against unfairness placed on all the UNEMPLOYED, QUALIFIED CAYMANIANS SEEKING JOBS, EVEN INVITED TO AN INTERVIEW???

    The unfair, biased comments against Caymanians does not help this current situation.

  4. Come the revolution, there will be nobody left to revolt against. It is backward talk; the world has moved on. Caymanians will get the best jobs if they are capable and qualified and hardworking. As is in the case of trust fund kids, no good will come of making people feel too special and privileged.

  5. Dear Big Berd

    If you come out of high school in the US, you get a minimum wage paying job. 10 years down the road you are still in a minimum wage paying job because of the multitudes of college graduates. You will not land in the professional arena 10 years down the road with only a high school diploma, plain and simple fact in the US.

    And why does Ezzard always make it seem like we Caymanians are back-woods people, espcially with his comment how people have to endure going to another country to go to college and endure cultural shocks. PUH-LEAZE! Tell me now, look around you at the people whereever you may be at this moment and tell me how many of those people have never travelled outside of Cayman?? Really Ezzard? Well maybe you have to endure cultural shock coming from Northside and representing what 200 people and out them 60 voters? Sound exaggerated? Yes it is, so stop your ridiculous exaggerations Ezzard, you make Caymanians look like small time back-woods people with your comments. If you are going to make comments of that type, then stick to the people you represent and know and leave the rest of us non-culturally shocked people out of your categorizations. Thanks.

    And just another note to Big Berd and others….when you pluralize a word, you DO NOT add an apostrophe and an s. Such as grass’s or business’s. How about grasses and businesses and buses and workers etc etc etc etc. Your writing sounded intelligent at first….

  6. An important aspect of this which is overlooked is the legal expectation on businesses to provide adequate training to locals as a condition on the grant of permits. Since some businesses either mislead immigration or ignore the requirement altogether with impunity, a generation of Caymanian workers have not always been provided with the means to become fully qualified. It is not the Caymanian’s fault in many instances and when local persons are not provided with any means to reach their potential, particularly where they know or suspect they have been used as pawns by less scrupulous employers, the bitterness and resentment will build.

  7. What audacity!
    Seems like you expats recommend that all Caymanians especially the educated ones should take the blue collar menial jobs while you run off with the white collar jobs?????? You have a nerve…..You are funding units for government…..that does not equate to being more qualified than our educated Caymanians for a job!!!!!!
    You are not.
    Get over youself!

  8. When I started my CA, I asked my mentor if I would be guaranteed a good job. He was quick to say getting the qualifications, does not guarantee you anything, it just gets you the credentials to be considered. Such is the case here folks. Going away to get educated gets you the right to be considered. If two people are equally qualified and considered acceptable, the edge must go to the Caymanians. But dont give them the job because they are Caymanian. Give them the job because they are the best candidate. I have seen many people qualified for a job but they just are not the best candidate.

  9. Comments like this from a few Crazy people have no business in the paper some simple minded people will take it as a blessing to do as the leader says.
    These people need to be put in check real quick.

  10. R.B.B. – There are a lot of cultural shocks while getting an education overseas. I can personally understand where Ezzard is coming from having been educated in the U.S. It is something quite different from Cayman even though I travelled to the U.S. every year while I grew up and thought that I had a good grasp on what America was about.

    Yes, we are exposed to a variety of cultures here in the Cayman Islands but unless you go and live in another country, you will not understand their culture entirely and sometimes it will come as a shock to you.

    No where does Mr. Miller make it seem as if we are back woods people. Simply, everywhere is different, speaking in terms of culture and it takes time to get use to when obtaining an education abroad.

  11. When I was building my house, before pensions and health insurance were compulsory, a Jamaican came to the work site asking for a job. I asked if he had a permit, and he said yes and showed it to me. I then asked why this small contractor from West Bay would take out a permit for him if he didn’t have any work for him? He said that he was hired under the conditions that he would repay the cost of his permit and provide one day’s work for free each week to his permit holder, and the rest of the time it was up to him to find work. Under those conditions that Jamaican, who was a skilled mason, was still able to make a better living than he could in Jamaica.

    I would hazard a guess that within the first month that Jamaican mason had covered his expenses with that small construction company, and for the rest of the year every week he was adding a bit of gravy to their bottom line.

    While it might not be as blatant as the above example, and probably all within the letter of the law, I wonder if perhaps there aren’t a few companies taking out permits for high-performance employees with the same knowledge that whatever the circumstances that employee will always cover their costs and more, or its back from whence they came?

    A Caymanian employee would always have the option of leaving and going to work for a competitor, or even setup as a direct competitor after a period of time. In a high-risk high-reward environment, it is up to the politicians to set the rules that will skew the risk/reward ratio in favour of Caymanians.

    One solution that I have always advocated is that permits are granted to and held by employees. If every qualified accountant on a work permit was free to move from their current job to another job just like Caymanian accountants then we would have a true picture of how many work permits for accountants were necessary. Same for lawyers, doctors, mechanics etc.

  12. Completely Baffled

    Your story is very common. There are hundreds of companies operating illegally under our laws and getting work permits when they should not. Over 600 are known not to be non compliant with pensions alone. When you add fronting, health insurance breaches, trade and business licensing and labour breaches and misleading immigration the picture is truly frightening.

  13. Revoloution is not coming, what is coming is a fear that a very small minority of disillusioned individuals will distort reality to the point that investors, business leaders, Caymanian and Expat, will feel insecure in there ability to grow their business and thrive in a climate of hostility.

    Perfect recipe for uncertainty and good reason not to invest or retire in a community struggling to accept cultural differences.

    After all who wants to stand in line with their neighbours at the grocery store and be treated with bitterness and animosity?

    Jobs or the lack of will be the biggest problem facing society especially if revolutionary proponents agitate.

  14. Dreamer,
    My experience informs me that the problem lies within the business ownership and management, which in my case were Caymanians.

    I worked for a company employing more Caymanians than expats, with management being dominated by Caymanians (over 83%) including the Managing Director and the Human Resource Manager. On three occasions I was asked if I could assist in recruiting colleagues from overseas, and ideally people I knew already. This was despite the cost of work permits, time to recruit, etc. The company paid better than average and it was not a case of importing cheap labour.

    This, when combined with the comment by Completely Baffled speaks to a situation that is pretty grim for Caymanians. Cayman being a small island nation with a small population, these owners and managers are friends and relatives of other locals- including MLA’s- does this conversation not come during family get togethers (Christmas/Easter/Graduation etc) and explanations provided? Or is the topic avoided altogether? I join Completely Baffled in being baffled by the realities.

  15. completely baffled. your story is similar to what I have been hearing for years now. it also seems to occur more in george town although that may not be true. i only say this because of the guys who used to jump on back of trucks on eastern avenue looking for a job. they just wait there and someone comes by and picks them up. was your case in george town also? i have never heard it happening much in west bay or bodden town but by now that might be changing a lot! and what is the govt doing about it? let me guess..nothing..

  16. Danielle,

    This guy lived in George Town and rented a room of some sort in the Swamp on a weekly basis, but the person who held his permit was a West Bayer that I happen to know.

    He came over to where I was building my house because he had picked up some work in someone’s yard across the street, but he picked up most of his work by standing with a group on that road next to where the block factory used to be.

  17. It is ironic that the politicians predicting a revolution are not running the government. The previous government did little to deal with the systemic problems facing Caymanian employment. Are these individuals actually trying to ferment discord to further their political fortunes?

  18. From a business point of view, it may be that Caymanians have been given TOO MANY rights – It’s now counter productive.

    In speaking to many business owners the general feeling/fear is that once you hire a Caymanian, the system favours that employee to the detriment of the business owner. Even if it quickly becomes apparent that they are not a good fit, you’re stuck with them, and face an uphill battle to subsequently fire them replace them with a suitable employee (Chosen from a pool of 16,000 or from 60 Billion)…

    You need the best person for the job, period.
    Nationality has NO bearing. If your Doctor tells you you need an operation and he is refering you to a Cardiologist your first question is NEVER about his nationality! it is about his experience and success rate.

    Many have heard the expression Corporate Ladder – Understand that companies on Cayman are often just Satellite offices, The inherent costs of doing business here mean a typical skeletal staff of uber-professionals and a skewed corporate ladder;- Even the lowest rung requires a decade of experience WORLDWIDE, there is NO pathway for a caymanian school-leaver to stay on Cayman and achieve parity there.

    But look at the Corporate HQ in New York, Hong Kong or where-ever. Thousands of employees and there is a rung which corresponds to every level of experience from the Mailroom up. A Caymanian applying there would be likely to get a job and with talent and hard work move up THAT corporate ladder where the rungs have a more achievable spacing. At the appropriate level stepping sideways to the Cayman Ladder then becomes a reality (indeed, once they get close the company will groom them to do just that).

    The youth of Cayman is being let down more by politicians who make unrealistic promises on behalf of businesses and then beat those same businesses for not making their lies into a reality.

    If you look out to Sea on a calm day, you can see about 7 miles, Don’t limit their horizon to 36 miles (7 miles from each end of a 22 mile island) when the whole world is out there.
    Politicians talking about going to other countries and enduring the cultural shocks make the rest of the world sound scary and dangerous. Open their eyes to the beauty and variety out there, as well as the reality that the future lies there both for them and Cayman.

    We have seen how Cayman supports it Olympic Athletes, How about teams for 2016 in the Financial Services and Tourism events – it is going to take that type of commitment!

    As for the advocates of the Cayman Revolution, that would be the ultimate Pyrrhic Victory – the Island has lost Credibility, Investment, Property Value, Money and International Respect as a result of poor fiscal planning by the government and an ill considered first step down that path.

    Seems like foolish politicians have been making the Expats the Scapegoats for all Caymans woes for so long that they started to believe their own rhetoric – doesn’t make it true though.

  19. Sonic…

    I love these comments of yours.

    Its the Caymanian citizens themselves who need to acquire some brains and cojones to look these politicians, who are their own Caymanians and in no way better than them…in the face and tell them where to get off at.

    And let them know that they are addressing no fools when they come selling their tainted Kool-Aid…a la Jim Jones-style…’drink this and you’ll get heaven’.

    In my time living in Cayman, NONE of them could approach me…I don’t vote and wish to hear nothing from them.

    Its the Caymanians who must educate themselves on the requirements and realizations of the world and of Cayman…

    And let these politicians know what is expected of them from educated (and don’t mean book-learning education alone), informed and exposed citizens who vote them the power they have.

    No politician should need my individual vote to do what is necessary to help the citizens of their own country, of which I am only one.

    If they need my individual vote to help them cement their power and control over me, then they certainly will not get it.

  20. Posted by Lantern on 8/15/2012 9:17:00 AM
    Since some businesses either mislead immigration or ignore the requirement altogether with impunity, a generation of Caymanian workers have not always been provided with the means to become fully qualified. It is not the Caymanian’s fault in many instances and when local persons are not provided with any means to reach their potential……

    I take MASSIVE issue with this statement. When we recently advertised my job,we interviewed 24 Caymanian candidates who all thought they would be a perfect fit. The advert of course stated the requirements for the job.

    Not a single one of the interviewees (and we only looked at Caymanians) came close to what the advert said was needed. Indeed, 21 out of the 24 applicants were recent high school graduates with NO experience whatsoever in the field we are in.

    Moreover, all candidates were given a very simple combined comprehension and spelling test. I made two paragraphs describing the company, with 15 deliberate mistakes and the applicants were asked to circle what was incorrect. Not a single one of them came close!! The best result was 6!!

    The oldest of the applicants was 23, and her previous experience – which she felt qualified her for the position – was having done 2 weeks work experience as a supermarket bag packer when she was at school. The majority of the applicants could also state that this was also their sole experience with the workplace.

    When asked what they knew about our company, NO-ONE had any idea what we do. No-one bothered to look the company up on the web and no-one realised that the English test given them at interview was comprised of two paragraphs outlining the company they were applying to.

    My point is that contrary to your opinion, Lantern, in my opinion most employers DO try to hire and mentor/teach locals – and I have spoken to many, many employers in this issue.

    These children (applicants) are taught both at home, politically and at school that once they leave school they are entitled to enter the workforce in a managerial position.

    There is no system in place to keep a child back a year when they cannot successfully pass a grade/level. Or if there is, it is never used. Does ANYONE know of a child who has been kept back because he or she failed their exam? But that poor child advances to an educational level he or she flounders with. This is so wrong and does no credit whatsoever to the education policies in this country!!

    The majority of applicants I saw were lovely young people, and I would have been absolutely delighted to find one who I could train for the position we were advertising. But sadly that wasn’t the case. None were even close to being able to do it. We tried though, Lantern….we tried. And many other employers try too.

  21. Leaving Soon,

    I don’t doubt the veracity of any of your statements, but I find it alarming that you would be involved in interviewing, testing, and if not selecting, then at least influencing the choice of the person who would replace you.

    Under the best of circumstances there are very few people who would willingly admit that there is someone else who could do their job just as well or better than how they are performing it. Of course, next year you will have another year of experience under your belt which will make it even more difficult for you to find a suitable replacement.

    Since none of the applicants were over 23 I suspect that the advert was worded in such a manner that would lead anyone reading it to believe that it was an entry level and/or low-paying position.

    The reading and comprehension levels of some of our high school graduates is deplorable. However, there are also many others at the other end of the scale who get admitted to and excel in prestigious universities overseas.

    The vast majority of these superior students take advantage of the generous scholarships offered by the larger companies on the island. It’s a win-win situation where the student gets free education and the company gets young educated talent to nurture.

    If you want to fish in the shallow end of the gene pool for your talent that’s OK, but please don’t make sweeping generalizations about all Caymanians based on what you caught there.

  22. Thank-you Lantern.

    *Posted by Completely Baffled on 8/17/2012 3:02:16 PM
    If you want to fish in the shallow end of the gene pool for your talent that’s OK, but please don’t make sweeping generalizations about all Caymanians based on what you caught there.

    In response to the above, I would like to say that I do not and never have made ‘sweeping generalisations’ about Caymanians. To suggest so is an insult. And may I say in my defence that I was absolutely eager to take on a young Caymanian to do my job – ANYONE who could have come close to being at the point that mentoring would have helped.

    Sadly though, Baffled, what I described earlier is what has happened every single time we advertised. Over a four year period.

    If you can send me a superior student who can liaise with top level management comfortably and be able to send them a comprehensible email, who can organise their time according to the schedule, who can organise and make travel arrangements for persons in all parts of the world to be in Cayman at the one time, who can , I would be absolutely delighted.

    The simple point I was trying to make is that school leavers in Grand Cayman (or anywhere else for that matter) should not be encouraged to apply for positions in middle management when they do not have the life skills, education or experience to take on such a position. It hurts them and they lose confidence.

    They are taught that they deserve to enter the workforce at managerial level. Rather, they should be taught that applying for a position at entry level and climbing up the ladder the way everyone else in the world does is the only way they will get to where they want to be.

    Don’t you see that?

  23. Leaving Soon,

    I notice you have conveniently side-stepped the issue of you interviewing your own replacement.

    Another telling point is your statement. Quote.
    Sadly though, Baffled, what I described earlier is what has happened every single time we advertised. Over a four year period. Unquote.

    That tells me that once per year, every year for the last four, you dutifully obeyed the requirements of the Immigration Law by advertising, interviewing, and rejecting candidates as unsuitable for your job.

    I have to presume that each and every time after your permit was renewed, there was no further attempt to hire and train a Caymanian replacement in that lengthy period between permit renewals.

  24. I had said the other day that some comments need not be repeated in the paper Well today a Big man came to visit me and warned me about the revolution coming. Pointing out the murders in west bay last year being part of the revolution. not a drug war ,, I had to tell him he was thinking sick. his U.S. educated child agreed with me and shook his head at his father.
    But back to the point if public officials are able to spew nonsense in the paper some will take it a gospel and that is where the danger lies

  25. Which model of revolution are they talking about?

    Do they mean a French type Revolution, in which the Aristocracy got the Guillotine as a result of incompetent government, extravagant spending, imposing unfair taxation and lining their own pockets (Yes, I can see some MLA’s losing sleep over that).

    Or perhaps, more insidious, they are thinking more like the one that started with the Kristallnacht in Germany ?

    That whirring sound you are hearing is Caymanians, British, Americans, Canadians, Australians and all those troops who fought Hitler’s Tyranny, spinning in their graves.

    Stop defiling their memory with this Intolerance, Hatemongering and Xenophobia!

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

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