More than 1,000 companies now ‘registered’

More Cayman Islands businesses are registered with the National Workforce Development Agency than are unemployed or underemployed Caymanian workers, according to figures reported by the premier last week.

Premier Alden McLaughlin lauded the workforce development agency’s efforts in finding employment for 179 people since July 1, 2013. His comment came during a “state of the nation” address to the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

Mr. McLaughlin also noted, that while registration with the agency is not required for local companies, 1,003 businesses had registered online to ensure their positions are made available to job-seekers registered with the National Workforce Development Agency.

“I can also tell you that work permits fell relative to the same period a year ago [measuring from June 2013 to June 2014] by 2.2 percent to 20,166,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Although more than 1,800 Caymanians remained unemployed, according to the most recent labor force survey, well below half of those said to be jobless had registered with the government agency.

National Workforce Development Agency officials said last month that approximately 800 Caymanians were registered with the agency at last count. The number includes unemployed Caymanians, those who are considered “underemployed” – part-time workers seeking full-time jobs – and those who already have full-time work but who are seeking a new job.

Local businesses are encouraged to register all their positions with the workforce agency, said Ministry of Employment deputy chief officer Tasha Ebanks-Garcia. In practice, Mrs. Ebanks-Garcia said, some companies are finding work permit approvals more difficult if they don’t register jobs with the National Workforce Development Agency.

In a number of recent cases where work permit applications have come before the Work Permit Board or Business Staffing Plan Board, the applications have been deferred because the employer did not register the job.

Mr. McLaughlin, during his address to the Chamber last week, spoke of “a number of troubling issues” regarding local employment, which he hoped the workforce development agency could help address.

“As anyone who pays attention to what is happening in Cayman will be aware, there is a growing feeling of dissatisfaction, even resentment among many Caymanians about their treatment in the labor market,” he said. “Government is becoming more and more concerned at what appears to be a trend among some companies of declaring jobs held by Caymanians as redundant, then re-titling them and applying for work permits.

“An unhappy local workforce must be a matter of concern, not just to government but to the Chamber as well.”

During the last meeting of the Legislative Assembly, East End MLA Arden McLean referred to a specific case where a local resort had laid off several long-time Caymanian employees.

In reference to one of the laid-off workers, Mr. McLean said: “How much more experience do you need than 25 years on the job? This is an events manager or something of that nature, 25 years, not one disciplinary complaint on this lady’s file. And just out of the clear blue sky, because we bring in some foreigner to take over? What are we doing?”

Education Minister Tara Rivers agreed, in the case of Caymanian worker redundancies, “there should be some form of reporting or proof requirement for employers to justify their actions.” For instance, she said, government could look into whether a company had similar positions filled by non-Caymanians who might have been made redundant instead. The government could also review if there were other jobs in the company the employee might have been trained to fill. She said those changes would be considered in amendments to the local Labour Law within the next year.

“The hiring of capable and willing Caymanians, and paying a good and fair wage, should not be a matter for debate,” Mr. McLaughlin said Thursday.