A term limit on residency for non-Caymanian workers in the civil service will happen; it’s just a matter of when it takes effect.
Officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed Tuesday that the issue would be worked out as part of “Phase II” of the government’s immigration review program.
“It is intended that the recommendations around this subject will be made to Cabinet and then the Legislative Assembly during ‘Phase II’ of the immigration review, which is already under way,” said ministry chief officer Eric Bush. “It is expected that the term limit for civil servants will be in line with the current term limit – i.e. nine years.”
Although civil servants’ employment contracts are governed under the Public Service Management Law, it was anticipated that any changes made that affect non-Caymanian civil servants would have to be included in the Immigration Law.
Changes to the Immigration Law adopted in the assembly last week have extended the term limit policy for foreign workers’ residency from seven to nine years and allow any non-Caymanian worker who has lived in the islands for eight consecutive years to apply for permanent residence.
However, non-Caymanians in the civil service are not subject to that term limit requirement, often referred to as the rollover policy, implemented in January 2004.
When non-Caymanians are hired on a government contract, they are typically given a fixed-term agreement for two or three years. Those contracts are approved by the government agency doing the hiring and reviewed by the relevant chief officer. In the case of higher-ranking civil service employees, the working agreements would be reviewed by the deputy governor.
There is no requirement for Cayman Islands government workers to apply for work permits as there is for their counterparts in the private sector. Non-Caymanian workers in the civil service are allowed to remain in the islands indefinitely as long as their contract is renewed.
This is not the first time a Progressives-led government has attempted to institute such a policy in the civil service.
In 2007, the government led by George Town MLAs Kurt Tibbetts and Alden McLaughlin said that it would apply the same term-limit policy to government workers that had been implemented three years earlier for workers in the private sector.
At the time, there were between 1,300 and 1,400 non-Caymanians employed in the civil service. Today, there are fewer than 900, according to the latest figures provided by the Immigration Department.
One of the key points of debate in 2007 concerned which government workers would be affected by the term-limit legislation.
Certain government departments that employ more foreign workers would be harder hit by a term-limit policy than others. Particularly, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Department of Education, which employed a large number of non-Caymanians at the time.
That has not changed. According to the Department of Education, 54 percent of all teachers in the public school system are non-Caymanian. In the RCIPS, about 58 percent of all police officers are non-Caymanian.
In the earlier proposal, the police service would have been exempt from the term-limit policy, according to then-Deputy Head of the Civil Service Peter Gough.
Also at issue in 2007 was whether various statutory authorities and government-owned companies should continue to be “protected” from the term-limit policy. Many entities, including Cayman Airways and Water Authority-Cayman are already required to get work permits for expatriate employees. However, others, including the Health Services Authority, were not required to do so.
The 2007 plan would have required legal changes to be added as amendments to the Public Service Management Law. The ultimate decision would have been left to the governor as head of the civil service. It was envisioned at the time that lawmakers would not get a vote on the matter – largely because of the constitutional arrangement that existed at the time.
Cayman approved a new Constitution in 2009, making the changes to affect a civil service term-limit policy in the Immigration Law subject to a vote of the Legislative Assembly.
“The premier has publicly stated in the assembly, that this will be a part of the amendments brought … in ‘Phase 2’ [of the immigration reform],” Mr. Bush said.