Although it rejected a legislative motion last week seeking to make business staffing plans for Cayman Islands companies public, the Progressives-led government acknowledged the system has never worked properly.
It was created more than a decade ago to monitor businesses that hire larger numbers of non-Caymanians.
Currently, any private business in the Cayman Islands that employs 15 or more staff members on work permits, meaning they are not Caymanians or permanent residents, must annually submit a business staffing plan. The plans include information on how many work permit holders are employed, when the permits expire, the company’s plans to hire and train Caymanian workers and any scholarship opportunities they offer.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said Thursday that while larger companies now seem to be submitting these staffing records in accordance with the law, they are neither seeing the benefits of nor adhering to the requirements of those plans.
“The government acknowledges the regime is not working and has not worked for many years in the way it was envisaged,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
First, the premier said, there seems to be little monitoring or enforcement – where needed – of provisions in the staffing plan.
“There isn’t adequate follow-up to what I call [regulation] 6 provisions – which require the employer to find and identify Caymanians to train,” he said. “There’s also the issue of the scholarships, which in many instances are agreed to as part of the business staffing plan, and we don’t have in place a proper mechanism, again, so that these scholarships are published or even that the Education Council itself is aware of these scholarships.”
Second, business staffing plans are apparently being dragged through a bureaucratic process that Mr. McLaughlin said is turning the Business Staffing Plan Board into “another Work Permit Board.”
“Each application for a work permit [at the Business Staffing Plan Board] goes through the same process and scrutiny as does an application to the Work Permit Board,” he said. “The whole purpose of having a business staffing plan in the first place was that you would agree in advance with the board what positions [and] work permits would be available over a particular period. So when you submitted the application you didn’t have to go through this careful process of scrutiny – you just got your work permit.”
Under the Immigration Law, companies that employ fewer work permit holders apply individually to the Work Permit Board for those permits and each is considered separately. Those businesses have no requirement to submit a business staffing plan to the board.
The private members’ motion that sought to make business staffing plans public was brought by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller who said Thursday that he had become concerned about employers “manipulating the process” in such a way that was preventing young, qualified Caymanians from “getting their foot in the door.”
“They’re told ‘there’s no vacancies’, but [the company has] 100 work permits,” Mr. Miller said. “These young people believe that if they could say ‘well, I would like to see the business staffing plan.’ They could look at the business staffing plan and say ‘yes, you don’t have any vacancies at the moment, but I notice from your business staffing plan that John Doe, who is an accountant, his work permit expires in three months and I would like the opportunity to apply for that specific post because we have the same qualifications.’
“I think that’s very rational … but unless we make the business staffing plan a document that can be inspected by these young people, they have no way of knowing,” Mr. Miller said.
Premier McLaughlin said these were issues that concerned government as well, but he said the Progressives would not invite the uproar among the local business community that taking such a step would cause.
“For instance … you have two big law firms that have a business plan about how they intend to grow their business and what areas of practice they want to focus on and develop,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “If all these business staffing plans became generally available to the public, then their competitors would have access to that information.
“If we were to agree to [Mr. Miller’s proposal] in this form, I think there would be a huge hue and cry from businesses generally about their particular commercially sensitive business plans being made available to the public.”