‘What are we to do, shut down?’

Cayman Islands Cabinet members have said that only Caymanians should be allowed to operate tour buses under the local law that governs public passenger vehicles.  

However, private sector representatives said what government is trying to do will reach far beyond tour buses and extend to nearly every sector of the public transportation industry.  

“[Prior to now] ‘operator’ was defined as being the owner [of the public transit vehicle] … and then those individuals had other nationalities driving the tour buses,” said Tourism Minister Cline Glidden Jr.  

According to tour industry officials, regulations within the country’s Traffic Law have defined “operator” as a Caymanian of at least 21 years of age. Earlier this year government officials looked at the issue and determined that “operator” meant anyone being in control of the bus, which had what Mr. Glidden said was the “unintended consequence” that only Caymanians could drive the tour buses.  

As it turns out, that was what was intended after all.  

“There was a request as to whether the government would change that,” Mr. Glidden said. ”After consideration the government, especially due to the unemployment situation, took a decision not to change that provision in the law, but to discuss with the 
operators their challenges and to see if we could find a way … to incentivise the operators to actually hire many of the Caymanians who are qualified.”  

Mr. Glidden said tour owners and operators were willing to do that, but found what they considered to be certain barriers to entry for Caymanian drivers in the tour bus business.  

The minister may have understated the issues a bit, according to representatives of the local tour industry.  

“This is absolutely huge,” said Nigel Mitten, owner of Majestic Tours in Grand Cayman and also the Cayman Islands Tourism Association board member representing the transportation sector. “It really restricts who we can hire as it also excludes us from hiring not only a person on a work permit but also persons married to Caymanians and persons with permanent residence. Up until two weeks ago [the government’s National Workforce Development Agency] has been sending transportation operators letters saying ‘sorry, there’s no one registered with us’. 

“What are we to do, shut down our business?” 

Mr. Mitten said the main issue regarding hiring anyone to work in the tours industry, or public transit in general, was the lengthy time it takes to process applications – including requirements that all applicants; whether they drive tour buses, limos, taxis, omni buses or school buses, take a general knowledge test. 

“From the reports that were given to me by the operators, apparently there was some 95 per cent failure rate on the test,” Mr. Glidden said, referring to it as a ‘tourism test’. “Obviously, any test that is failing that number would indicate there is a problem.”  

“I’ve never had any person pass that test the first time,” Mr. Mitten said.  

About 18 months ago, Mr. Mitten said there was discussion of a 30-day or 60-day time frame for tour bus owners to test-drive their drivers, during which time they might receive on-the-job training that would enable them to pass general knowledge tests and determine if they liked working in public transit.  

Minister Glidden said he agreed with “an interim or a grace period which would allow the operators to be able to use the drivers for a period of time … that would allow them to get accustomed to and determine whether they were suitable for their operation”.  

On Thursday, at a Cabinet press briefing, Mr. Glidden said that grace period could be extended to 90 days depending on Public Transportation Board approval.  

Mr. Mitten said this was an issue, not only for tour bus drivers, but for all public transit vehicles which operate under the same law in the Cayman Islands.  

He said there needs to be more discussion between government and industry officials before anything like “Caymanian only” rules for tour bus drivers goes forward.  

“There is so much talk of protecting the small Caymanian-owned businesses at a time when the economy is hurting, but we cannot see how what is happening is going to help anyone,” Mr. Mitten said. “This is not just our transportation industry problem. The fact is that when the transportation network of a society is crippled, then all of society suffers and so soon it will be the problem of all residents of the island. As recently as just a few weeks ago companies have received letters from the National Workforce Development Agency stating that there are no Caymanians registered as drivers. So what happens now?” 

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20 COMMENTS

  1. So there is discussion as to whether to put an untested driver behind the wheel of a bus full of tourists or schoolchildren? That hardly seems prudent. Of course it may make jobs available for Caymanian paramedics.

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  2. Now would be the perfect time for Caymanians that are qualified and interested in doing this type of work to make themselves known. If they are not registered with the NWD, they should probably approach the operator themselves and express their interest as well as get down to the NWD and register. Let see how much of a response this call for qualified people will get..

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  3. Only Cayman would interpret the word operator as meaning the owner but not the actual driver. That’s where the problem started and it’s pretty easy to see who started it. Let the owners hire Caymanians or drive their buses themselves.

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  4. It seems at every step, the Cayman Government is taking strides in the wrong direction. By instituting this policy, all they are doing is cutting off their nose to spite their face. The No. 1 Priority of the Government should be focusing on their main form of GDP – Tourism. The island is a tourist destination and generates the primary source of revenue from this. Everybody benefits, especially the residents of the island. IF you build it, they will come! The Cruise Dock, airport terminal and expansion and the required infrastructure needed to support the influx of people coming to the island should be the top priority being focused on right now. That combined with some easing of the regulations to allow foreign investment in the island without all the damb red tape – will in turn create thousands of new jobs. It’s simple economics, trust me on this. Without it, the island will succumb to a slow and painful reality that just because you have some beautiful beaches, means nothing any more. Investors will take their money and their means to a destination where the government supports economic development and growth and understands the importance of tourism. Jamaica understood this, they have built 5 NEW cruise docs over the past few years and they can support the larger planes and runway space to bring in more foreign individuals. Without these changes, unemployment will skyrocket, crime will continue to rise and create even further issues for the residents and locals. Stop looking at the miniscule issues and take a look at the broader picture.

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  5. Removing some of the red tape and bureaucracy to allow Caymanians to get their feet wet in the industry is a good first step and the Minister is moving in the right direction. However on an island that has TWICE as many jobs as Caymanian’s, do we really need to have a Caymanians only legislation…seriously? Caymanians are a hot commodity and EVERY Employer is trying to get them but no industry can rely on just an indiginous Caymanian workforce as there simply just are not enough Caymanians.

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  6. There are basic, fundamental low level jobs that could prove a successful career for industrious Caymanians. This is a late start to say the least to protect key industry services within the Cayman tourism services and if nationalizing the tour bus, FB, hotel clerks, taxi drivers, gardeners, scuba divers, boat captains, water sports operators and the like should all be strictly reserved for Caymaniains only. However, there should be an exemption in that should there be no listed qualified Caymanians with the Department of Labor, then and only then should a one (1) year grant for a work permit be approved.

    To address the concern on what to do with the high number of current bus operators now not qualifying under this law. I propose to allow the tour bus owners twelve months to identify and train the necessary Caymanians to replace these work permit holders in that time. Having knowledgeable Caymanians as a face behind the Caymanian product is immeasurable.

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  7. With the greatest respect Kman-ite, you propose some high minded ideas that as you say are a bit late but you have missed out on a couple of relevant facts too and one of them is, most, if not all industrious Caymanians already have a career even if they felt they had to leave the Cayman Islands in order to do that.

    The other point that you miss sir is the fact that many of the jobs you suggest have professional testing and/or experience requirements that the current batch of unemployed Caymanians simply cannot meet and the tour bus situation is the perfect example. There is a Tourist Test, and one of the employers in the article above has already said that most Caymanians can’t pass it on the first try.

    Supposedly, the expats can do that? That is a pretty damning statement about Cayman education and/or interest in the jobs to be had.

    Other jobs that you suggested should be Cayman only include hotel desk clerk. Major hotels require language skills for that position. Scuba Instructor, and not diver as you suggested? There are accepted international standards and testing for that, and anyone interested in that job pays for that education from their own pocket. It is obvious that young Caymanians have no interest in that idea.

    Boat Captain? The industrious Caymanians who have an interest in that position already own their own boats and water sports license. I’m certain that none of them would be willing to purchase or build another boat just to put a 17 year old school leaver in charge of it, just like no taxi owner will be hiring a school leaver to drive his or her taxi on the night shift.

    What this comes down to sir is, yes there is an unemployment problem among Caymanians, but it’s not like the jobs aren’t there to be had. The problem is the lack of training and experience among the jobless. You propose that the tour operators should teach prospective employees how to pass the Tourist Test, and drive a bus too.

    Fair enough sir, who should pay for that training? The tour operator, at his own cost?

    Should the dive shops on the island also be forced into training Dive Instructors and Boat Captains at their own cost?

    And presumably the hotels should be providing language lessons at their own cost?

    I look forward to your reply sir.

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  8. Yes there is lot caymanians who need be driver if u need 50 of them i can find them
    U just don’t want employ caymanians end story
    Amjed the jordanian

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  9. In response to catchandrelease:

    after reading your comment i looked up the defintion of the word operator in the online dictionary after initially agreeing with your comment. Here it is below:

    Definition of OPERATOR
    1: one that operates:
    a : one that operates a machine or device
    b : one that operates a business
    c : one that performs surgical operations
    d : one that deals in stocks or commodities

    So based on the B definition if i owned a restaurant then i would be the operator. now if that restaurnat had delivery vehicles then i would need someone to operate the vehicle however it would not mean that the person driving the vehicle also was the owner of the business.

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  10. kman-ite you are right. We should only have caymanians in all tourists related jobs in the cayman islands. Have you been to Jamaica, central america, cuba other caribbean countries? Why not here. I could teach any one who has the ability to read an write to do tours on a bus The only qualification they need is to need to learn to drive a bus while talking.
    The problem is the test, I would say mostly no one would be able to pass the test the first go around. A question on the test was where is the spawning grounds of the nassau grouper? Why any average tourist would be asking that question is beyond me. What is the name of the cay in cayman brac? Why anyone in Grand Cayman would be asked that is another bias.
    Why not questions that tourist ask everyday in a taxi or tour bus. Why not have a separate license for both? How big is the island ? Is this part of the UK? What’s the name of the governor? Why do they call it Hell? Why do you drive on the left? tour questions.
    Taxi questions : What’s going on tonight? where is some nice rest.? for lobster? , italian food? , fish? How much to go to Botanical gardens? Rum point?
    Couldn’t we have questions like made sense?
    I have been to so many tourism programs over my 40 years of tourism related jobs I can tell you whats wrong with the system .
    When you have someone fail a test: 1) take away the license.
    When someone steals passengers : 2) take away the license
    We have standards and procedures that have been signed when you get permission to work at the port. We also pay for a ID badge to come on the dock to do business. But everyday for 25 years it has gotten worst by the day . People screaming at the top of their lungs right next to busses to get business that they shouldn’t be getting. Taxis and busses pull numbers out of a hat so to say to get god’s blessing to be first and possibly get number 1 so they can make a days pay.
    Why isn’t there a division between bus and taxi? Isn’t it the way all over the world? Why should cayman be different? Look at the people we claim are caymanians? I’m sorry folks but if you can’t read and write you shouldn’t be driving taxis or busses. My grandparents had 6 grade standard and they could read and write and speak english properly so that anyone who spoke english could understand them. What’s the excuse for allowing illiterate people on a job that needs them the 3 r’s to be good in their job?
    So then how can you tell the youth any different ?

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  11. Pay is the problem why there are not more people taking advantage of these jobs. Remember that 6 months a year the cruise lines go down by half.
    We had a law that there wasn’t suppose to be anymore large busses on the island . Land and sea co-op was suppose to get the contract but somehow larger busses with double capacity won the day and a family member ended up with the contract instead of individual owners who are scraping by.
    So instead of making a decent pay per day. You make half. Small business must find away.
    Aaaahhh my favorite subject the diving instructor…………We don’t need them. Plain and simple. The divers who pay to go on dive trips are already Certified scuba divers. We only need dive masters We just need to pay them a cost of living salary. End of discussion.

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  12. I am really trying to wrap my hands around this, the storyline here says that the owners are having a hard time find Caymanian drivers and the NWD say that there are none register with them, Yet folks like Jordanian say that he know at least 50 people who are qualified for and would want these jobs. My question is have they applied for them and been turned down and if so what kind of reason where they given? Also is there a reason they are not registered with the NWD ? Or are the folks at the NDW lying and these folks actually went there to register for work?

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  13. @4dafuture

    Sadly too many pundits offer opinions without checking the facts.

    Many tourists start to dive on holiday – often misnamed the resort course – a Discover Scuba Diving experience (very popular on Cayman) is ONLY conducted by an instructor (who incidentally carry several million dollars of professional liability insurance).

    The PADI Open Water Course is a modular package and is not location specific, so, an individual wishing to learn to dive can complete part of the course online, practice skills in a pool in north america, then complete the open water dives here in Cayman (which is better than enduring a freezing lake in US winter). Again Instructor only.

    Open Water Divers are certified to 60 feet so can only do the top half of the Kittiwake – Perhaps an Instructor could teach them additional skills (called an Advanced course, and even a Wreck course) which allow them to enjoy their diving more and contribute to the CAYMAN ECONOMY.

    The Cayman diving experience has a worldwide reputation for safety and quality which was earned almost exclusively by those Scuba professionals you have just belittled and de-valued. They form a key part of Cayman’s GDP and if they left overnight, Cayman would experience way more unemployment.

    Though, perhaps it is the very professionalism of those individuals, who make it look so effortless that the ill informed may mistakenly believe it to be easy.

    A nationality is not the same as a qualification, yet that is what Caymanian only jobs imply. The solution to unemployed Caymanians is not to make jobs that will only fit a Caymanian, but to train those Caymanians and make them a fit for available jobs.

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  14. Again I will ask, if there are so many Caymanians qualified for the Tour Bus driver jobs, why is it that the NWD has none registered looking for this type of work.. Can anyone enlighten me on this ?

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