We entrust our families and our households into their care. Without them, many of us presumably could not “manage to get by.”
Domestic workers – nannies, housekeepers, helpers – are indeed special people. But that doesn’t mean they should continue to be treated as a “special class” of people in the Cayman Islands. No one should.
We believe we understand lawmakers’ intentions (and they’re good ones) in proposing to re-establish the “Certificate for Specialist Caregivers,” allowing non-Caymanian nurses or domestics who help care for elderly, infirm or disabled people to stay for up to 19 years in Cayman without being “rolled over” under the Immigration Law. Created in 2010, the caregivers provision was not included when the law was overhauled in 2013.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who filed a private member’s motion last year to revive the certificate, said, “It’s the right thing to do.”
He said, “The provision was put in the law to help our senior citizens who are in need of those caregivers.
“They don’t adjust well to new faces or a new routine. They are very difficult to handle, and it’s best when they are satisfied with someone to leave that person in place.”
Appearing to concord with Mr. Bush’s main point, Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “The great struggle is to reconcile the desire to have this person long term, with the concerns about how those people will fit into the immigration regime that we have,” he said. “These caregivers are generally some of the lower paid persons in employment in the Cayman Islands, and the chances of them being able to meet their permanent residence requirements … are quite slim in most instances.”
In other words, the government’s dilemma is this: Many people need these caregivers to stay beyond the nine years granted by Cayman’s work permit regime, but the vast majority of caregivers would not qualify for PR according to the current standards.
The government’s proposed solution is to enact an exemption – another in the patchwork of legal loopholes and provisos that “excuse” domestic workers from all manner of standards and protections that apply across other industries (for example, mandatory pensions, recruitment provisions in the Gender Equality Law or salary requirements under contemplated minimum wage legislation.)
The caregivers certificate is the “quick and dirty” way of avoiding what amounts to an immigration inconvenience for Caymanians, but it does nothing to address the underlying problem – i.e., that Cayman’s immigration system fails to meet the needs of our country’s employers and does not allow for the fair, equitable and transparent treatment of all foreign workers.
Rather than enacting a measure that enables certain caregivers to stay in Cayman longer without needing to obtain permanent residence, lawmakers should construct an immigration regime that accurately takes into account the value being provided by those caregivers, and all workers in general.
“Class distinction,” after all, is just another term for “class discrimination.”
And that’s never the right thing to do.