CITA vs. NWDA: Word war erupts over jobs drive

Responsible legislators ought to be more careful about lobbing verbal firebombs. The resulting blazes can quickly burn out of control.

Through the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and in conjunction with the National Workforce Development Agency, a range of local businesses expended considerable time and money last fall on an initiative to offer job opportunities to unemployed Caymanians. Although six individuals (out of 102 initial participants) did secure positions, the overall results of the Cayman Tourism Employment Drive (“CayTED”) were, on balance, disappointing.

Enter Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo.

According to a local online media report, Mr. Suckoo dismissed the joint CITA-NWDA employment effort as a “deliberate attempt to discredit Caymanians and justify using cheap labour,” among other smears directed against the private sector.

Careful, Mr. Suckoo.

Mr. Suckoo’s inflammatory statements ignited responses on the Web and talk radio where the sympathetic host has taken the opportunity, as he often does, to refer repeatedly to a growing sentiment for “revolution” in the Cayman Islands.

Talk radio show hosts ought to be more careful and the owners of the relevant media outlets ought to take note — as should ICTA (the Information & Communications Technology Authority), which regulates the publicly owned airwaves over which radio and television stations broadcast.

After getting singed by Mr. Suckoo et al, CITA finally had enough and fired back, in the form of a blistering press release containing the following:

“CITA has responsibilities to act in the best interests of its membership and the tourism industry as a whole. CITA wants nothing to do with anything that is perceived as discrediting Caymanians. In light of the negativity that has been cast on CayTED, if these falsehoods remain uncorrected in the public perception, CITA will have to disassociate itself from any future iteration of a tourism employment drive in conjunction with NWDA.”

Putting aside the corrections of falsehoods, it probably isn’t a bad idea for CITA to divorce itself from participating with government on future employment drives.

Why put in all the time, trouble and money, only to have your good name besmirched in return for your efforts?

Further, it is unclear to us what the NWDA, meaning the government, is actually bringing to the process.

In last fall’s employment drive, CITA identified more than 60 job openings (and online listings thereof) from more than a dozen employers.

What did the government provide, other than the unwarranted backhanding of CITA from Mr. Suckoo after the campaign?

The NWDA, to its credit, apparently did attempt to dispute Mr. Suckoo’s remarks, blaming the misinformation on, tactfully, “a miscommunication on the part of NWDA” to Mr. Suckoo.

Enough already.

With a staff of 12 people and an annual budget of more than $1 million, it is the NWDA — not its private sector partners — that should be the focus of strict scrutiny from Cayman’s elected lawmakers.


  1. Local talk radio is in the business of creating news with inflammatory statements with little or no concern with any repercussions.
    Unfortunately some politicians avail themselves of this public platform for the attention it affords them.

  2. To comment on this subject I must first say to the media, Careful. I would suggest be more considerate in your editorial, and do not fan smoke. Because it can quickly turn into a big bush fire in Cayman.
    It is the democratic right for CITA to respond, but the fact remains, are their thoughts and assumptions correct.
    I feel positive that Mr. Alva Suckoo did his homework before making a response, however any honest thinking person who live in Cayman will observe that our voice has become a minority. This I blame my own people for, because seventy five percent of them does not have the guts to stand up for what they believe in. What a shame.
    Touching lightly on the suggestion that Mr Alva Suckoo speaks of Revolution in Cayman. My thoughts are that Mr Alva Suckoo is out there constantly in the Highways and By ways and I feel positive he is getting that feedback from the public.

  3. For once I agree with Al Suckoo, but still believe it has to go further than talking, action needs to take place. As for this editorial, the bias and propaganda in it is so obvious. Compass you can’t stop the truth it will come out.

  4. It is high time for people to stop blaming CITA or the Private sector at large for Caymanian unemployment. It is not their responsibility to ensure Caymanians have jobs or that they are qualified to and have the skills to secure these jobs. This responsibility lies squarely on the individuals who want to get these jobs and the CIG has the responsibility of providing opportunities to obtain the skills and education needed, however it is still your responsibility to take advantage of these opportunities.

    Blaming the private sector is just a cop out on the part of the CIG as well as the individuals who claim it’s their fault.

    Bottom line is that if you want a job it is your responsibility to seek out and find one. No one is responsible for just giving you one.

  5. A well-written article.

    The ‘blame-game’ is always the easiest escape from taking responsibility for the lack of drive and ambition of some locals. If Mr. Suckoo feels that Caymanians are being slighted, then he needs to go out into the community, find the unemployed Caymanians, take them to where the job opportunities are in the private sector, get them started on the jobs, assess their work via a Time-and-Motion study, then speak.

    Where in the world have you heard that politicians are arm-twisting the private sector to hire ADULTS? CITA’s time would be better spent on enhancing resources for private sector job placements from ANYONE and ANYWHERE, than focusing on the unsubstantiated comments by Mr. Suckoo.

    If Caymanians want work, let them find them on their own. Enough of this rubbish.

  6. Mr. Davis

    To some degree, your comments have merit but…

    There is another side to the story that seems to be a ‘no go’ topic.

    That is the scale of economics of the work permit industry run by the CI Government which runs completely counter to preparing and getting Caymanian nationals into the work-force.

    And we can clearly see which side of the equation carries more weight in the eyes of both the Government and the private sector.

    Follow the money trail and there you will find your answers.

    I use the term, ‘work permit industry’ because that is exactly what the CI Govt is operating, for the benefit of the public coffers and the facilitation of businesses in the Cayman Islands.

    Of course the future and destiny of any one individual or small group of unemployed Caymanians is going to become a secondary concern in the bigger, money-making picture…

    Unless and until the social consequences become too detrimental to ignore.

    My eyes were opened recently to the inner workings of this work permit industry with the recently concluded case of the Immigration Dept. employee who seemed to have been ‘stitched up’ by her own work colleagues and had the RCIPS and public prosecutors in on the game to run the poor woman into court on what seemed to be trumped up charges, in the eyes of the jury.

    My conclusion is that when your country is for sale to the highest bidder, the individual’s life and concerns begin to count for very little and that is the picture we see being painted in Cayman today.

  7. If you want to eliminate ex-pat vs local discrimination for jobs—legislation needs to pass a minimum wage for all expats at 10.00 an hour. This would eliminate the cheap labour the simple minded are willing to take from Cayman’s wealthiest.

  8. @Ricardo, Very good point,

    I have in the past pointed out on multiple occasions that the fact that the CIG makes money on employed expats and not employed Caymanians could very well have a lot to do with why they are not that motivated to see thousands of Work Permit holders replaced with Caymanian employees. They are on the other very comfortable with instigating the blame game against the private sector for the unemployment issues especially when it get them votes.

    I would bet the bank that this situation would be a lot different if there were income taxes in Cayman paid by people who do not hold work permits which would level the financial playing field when it comes to how much the CIG brings in for Work Permit vs Non work permit holders. However, I doubt that anyone would agree with something like this because most people want their cake and eat it to.

    Bottom line is that Work Permit holders make the CIG money while they cost the private sector money. So those who say that it’s the private sector who benefits from the Work Permit Industry and not the CIG may want to reevaluate their position because just as Ricardo says it is a money making business for the CIG and I am sure they are not interested in anything that would mean less money for them.

    After all they need to protect their phony baloney jobs and insure that those large paychecks they get keep coming in.

  9. I have lived here close on 33 years now.

    It will be very sad to see this country torn apart by those who wish to create warfare between native born Caymanians and those who have moved here by choice.

    I have often written in these comment sections about the fact that a tourist could arrive in the Cayman Islands for a vacation and not come across a single Caymanian.
    Except an immigration officer and perhaps a taxi driver.

    This is WRONG!

    But how do you force people to take jobs in the tourism industry if they don’t want to?

    And yes, I agree with Ann Thomas that there should be a higher wage. But for ALL, not just ex-pats.

    But remember, be careful what you wish for. Increasing the wages paid in the tourism industry will make our already expensive tourism product even more expensive.

    Richard Tatum has written about the ‘work permit industry’ and claims that the government is approving permits for ex-pats for the money these permits generate.
    Just how much do you think the work permit fee is for a maid or restaurant server? Two / three hundred dollars a year maybe.

    And even if true, what does that have to do with unemployed persons not applying for offered jobs?

    I repeat. How do you force people to take jobs they do not want?

  10. Good point, Ann.

    The excuse that is usually used to not hire Caymanians is lack of experience, exposure, education and training.

    And the merits praised and used for the exhaltation of work-permit foreigners is that they come with these attributes over the national Caymanian.

    Let me pour some water on that fire…

    I guarantee that up to 70 % of the 20,000 wp holders in Cayman at the moment came here with NO more experience, education or training for their jobs than anyone else here.

    Some of their education levels is deplorable; I’ve been witness to this, personally.

    They were chosen because they were willing to work for what they were offered…no questions asked…and come with characteristic traits that suit their employers…nothing more.

    And most of them are here only for the short-to-medium term that will facilitate the earning of income to send back home to support their families…

    And their pay packets facilitate the profits of their employers.

    And…most of them are more than willing to support and encourage the stereotypes that present them as more preferable for employment than the nationals of the country.

    Any Caymanian who has to work as a minority amongst a glut of work-permitters, regardless of whichever countries they hail from, will attest to what I’m saying.

  11. While I agree with both Mr Tatum and Mr Davis comments on this subject. I have to think that the odds are stacked against the unemployed caymanian. When you have the government making big money from work permits, then the business lobbying government for what they wants. Look at where the politicians gets campaign funds from, not the unemployed . This issue has too many conflicts of interest to be handled by the government and entity’s that can manipulate the system for their benefits. Don’t care how much experience and education you have you will not get the job, unless you are prepared to take the job for little money.

  12. Norman Linton…

    My name is Ricardo…not Richard;please pay me the respect of using my proper name if you are going to refer to me in your comments.

    The massive investments in the tourism industry that returns the profits to those business owners is facilitated by cheap labour…as is many of the business owners profits across all industries.

    You will not see many work-permit foreigners living in lavish homes, driving expensive cars and eating out in the same expensive restaurants as their employers do, will you ?

    But you will find many Caymanians who aspire to do so, in their own country.

    The economics of the issue has been adequately discussed in this round of commentary.

    Go figure !

  13. Michael…

    IF Cayman had or ever introduces an income tax regime, you will definitely see this picture change drastically…overnight.

    Why ?

    When the profits of business owners, both foreign and local, are assessed for corporation taxes, it will show the true story of the ‘work permit industry’ in the Cayman Islands.

    Remember that a tax regime taxes people who earn more, more in taxes, in principle that is.

    Either way, the Govt. makes its money but…

    Will the wp foreigner remain so attractive an option for cheap labour, to increase profits…

    Should that ever become the case in the Cayman Islands ?

    A survey on how many businesses are foreign-owned as opposed to how many are Caymanian-owned would be very interesting and revealing information, wouldn’t it ?

  14. Cheap labor feeds the economy in every country not just Cayman. No one is forcing anyone to take low paying jobs it is a choice. You always have the option of bettering yourself to qualify for higher paying jobs. Force businesses to pay high wages and they will charge more for their services increasing the cost of living for everyone.

    As for Ricardo comment….

    ‘You will not see many work-permit foreigners living in lavish homes, driving expensive cars and eating out in the same expensive restaurants as their employers do, will you ?

    But you will find many Caymanians who aspire to do so, in their own country. ‘

    I completely agree, but if you want to live a certain lifestyle you have to earn it and make the right choices to reach that goal which includes aspiring to qualify for higher paying jobs or starting your own business. It’s not a right to live in a mansion and eat at fancy restaurants. It’s a privilege, and that privilege has to be earned unless you have rich parents who already earned it that you can mooch off of. However, they will also eventually want you to earn your keep.

  15. 1.Corporations do not pay taxes people do. Whatever tax is applied to the corporation is then tacked onto whatever product they sell or provide service to. If/when the US govt is successful in bringing back more (international) taxes from Apple to the US then the cost of your Iphone just went up. Only people pay taxes.

    2.Govts do not create jobs, businesses do that. And if they are successful (profits) then they put even more people to work.

    3.Bring in taxes and watch money leave very quickly. As Cayman moves even closer to the burdensome, archaic regimes of other countries what is our competitive edge then? Certainly not our sparkling personalities.

    4.The government, in this country or any, has little success in facilitating private sector success but through taxes and administrative headaches, has great influence on reducing competitiveness and loss of opportunities. Recall Private Banking 15 years ago and fund administration more recent than that. What should we kill off next?

    5.If an employer is given the choice between a high work permit fee, coupled with a burdensome, slow moving administrative process, vs someone who is able and willing, can start the next day and one of their own (least not forget two thirds of local business are Caymanian owned) but chose not to ask yourself why. And no the answer is not because they can abuse foreign workers. That is just an excuse.

    6.The cost of public education is approx. 11k per student vs a private at 9k yet the disparity of the education level is widely recognized as night and day. Why is that? And more importantly what future problems is that creating? You think it is bad now? Wait ten years.

    7.If one is motivated, can string a sentence together, and smile every now and then, you get hired. At every and all levels and without any Govt assistance. Full stop. Govts only get involved when they try and squeeze a round peg into a square hole. That has never worked nor will it ever. And that is not the fault of business or govt.

  16. Mr. Peene

    Thanks for your enlightened comments.

    The gist of my comments is this…

    That the work-permit/foreign labour system in Cayman is an economic model that is used by both the Government and private sector industry to facilitate revenue and profit making.

    In the foreign worker vs un-employed Caymanian debate, the issue is so emotional and divisive that the true nature of the situation is totally lost or missed.

    Most of the commentary reflects deep-seated prejudices and segregation…

    And truly, the only ones that benefit from this are the ones pulling in the revenues.

    The un-employed Caymanian is always going to be a useful political issue when needed…

    And the cheap labour foreigner is always going to be a useful economic tool, when needed.

    Its all and only about the money and we should not lose sight of that fact.

  17. Ricardo’s comments put it all in the correct perspective. This is an always has been a political football were politicians mainly benefit from pitting one side against the other..

  18. Ricardo. Believe it or not we are on the same side.
    I think it is very sad that so few Caymanians work in the tourism industry.
    But again. How do you force people to take jobs they do not want?
    Forget the ‘work permit industry’ concept for a moment.
    You just can’t force unemployed people to take and work at a job they don’t want.

  19. Mr. Linton

    My comments to you weren’t meant to imply that we were not.

    My comments regarding the ambitions of some Caymanians, employed and unemployed, was meant to provide an answer to the question as to why these jobs go unfulfilled…by Caymanians.

    They do not see them as a path to fulfilling these ambitions.

    Whether these ambitions are realistic or not is another matter altogether…as Micahel Davis has so eloquently pointed out.

    Changing people’s attitudes can be a horrendously difficult task, especially in an affluent place like Cayman where people see all around them, things that they would like to have but…

    With no clear and workable plan as to how to go about getting them.