Oct. 28 looms, 1,500 jobs in limbo
He did not get to where he is now, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, by doing that. However, Mr. Langevin said this week that he’s confronted with that possibility if the current uncertainty over government-issued Term Limit Exemption Permits forces the company to let go 80 staff members all at once.
“It is very concerning, especially as we have a busy holiday season coming up,” Mr. Langevin said. “Christmas is sold out and Thanksgiving [at the end of November] is close. In our industry, if there are no ladies and gentlemen there’s no service. It’s not like I can just call people and say ‘we can’t service you.’”
Even more troubling, the Ritz general manager said, is the effect the looming deadline for the expiration of the Term Limit Exemption Permits on Oct. 28 is having on staff.
“We have 80 people in limbo and don’t know what their fate would be,” he said. “Those people have heard so many other statements about what the [government] plan is or is not.”
Mr. Langevin estimates the Ritz has around 500 work permit holders in total. Had the Hurricane Ivan-era work permits been allowed to expire at their normal time – in late 2011 – the hit in staff would have been somewhere around 200 to 250 staff members all at once.
“Eighty is something I can assume,” he said. “It takes a lot of work and it’s still an erosion of talent, but it’s something we can assume. But for my ladies and gentlemen … they love Cayman and they are put in limbo.”
The fate of the 1,510 people working in Cayman during the past two years on Term Limit Exemption Permits is expected to be resolved in a new Immigration Amendment Bill that is set to come before the Legislative Assembly sometime in October. Specific details of the bill itself could be released as early as Friday, Sept. 20.
According to government officials, the plan is to remove the current seven-year term limit on foreign workers’ residence and extend the duration of that term long enough to allow all who hold valid work permits to apply for permanent residence – the right to live in Cayman for the rest of their lives.
For the 1,500 or so Term Limit Exemption Permit holders, applications for permanent residence may come on a strict timeline for approval. Any exemption permit holders who have lived in Cayman for nine years at the date the law comes into force would be given just three months to apply for permanent residence. Everyone else would have to apply for residency within the eighth year of their stay in the islands, according to initial plans for the bill.
A full copy of the proposed legislation was not available by press time Thursday. Premier Alden McLaughlin has said that he hopes the legislation will be approved prior to the Oct. 28 deadline for the Term Limit Exemption Permits’ expiration.
For Stuart Bostock, president of the islands’ largest security company, The Security Centre, dealing with the looming Oct. 28 deadline has taken the better part of a year.
“We … set out to identify and recruit replacements for some 50 staff affected by the rollover policy plus an additional 50 staff for existing and anticipated staffing levels,” Mr. Bostock said. “Although not all new staff have joined us as of today’s date, we are confident that the successful arrival of those who are on their way and the favorable consideration of work permit applications being processed by the Immigration Department will support the continuity of our business and short- to medium-term expansion.
“It is obviously regrettable that we have [lost] and will continue to lose valuable, professional staff to the rollover policy. However, The Security Centre Ltd. took a firm position in 2012 to not apply for key employee status for any uniformed security officer positions within the company and attempted to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the impact that would be caused.”
Both Mr. Bostock and Mr. Langevin know the long-term solution is to identify and train more local workers for their respective industries. However, that’s often easier said than done, both men agree, and takes more time than a deadline of next month will allow.
“We still find it challenging to recruit Caymanians in our uniformed security department, so although this department is very heavily reliant on work permit holders, the rest of the company, management and administrative duties fall primarily to Caymanians and permanent residents,” Mr. Bostock said.
Mr. Langevin said the Immigration Department will never solve Cayman’s recurrent staffing problems on its own.
“It’s not through work permits you achieve [hiring of Caymanian staff], it’s through education,” he said. “Pushing good talented people out is not going to solve the issue.”