The counterattack by Employment Minister Tara Rivers against the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce has revealed the existence of an information rift, not only between herself and the business group, but also, apparently, between herself and Premier Alden McLaughlin.
We make this observation holding two issues of the Cayman Compass in hand: Monday’s newspaper, carrying the harsh response from Minister Rivers to former Chamber President Barry Bodden, who in late January criticized the government for failing to keep up its end of a dialogue on topics such as the Labour Relations Bill and the Ready2Work KY employment initiative — and last Friday’s newspaper, which contained details of a new partnership, forged by the premier, between the government and the Chamber on the Ready2Work project.
Minister Rivers said she is “surprised and deeply disappointed” that Mr. Bodden would complain about deficiencies in communication from the government on issues that are vital to Cayman’s private sector, public sector and economy as a whole. We would express similar sentiments about Minister River’s statement, whose content and tone are diametrically opposed to Premier McLaughlin’s solutions-oriented approach to the same situation.
Consider this from Minister Rivers: “It is now time for the Chamber to deliver on its stated desire for and commitment to a true partnership with the government in order to assist in addressing the employment concerns in a way that will benefit both employers and employees. However, if the organization is unable or ill-equipped to fulfill its promises, then it is incumbent upon the leadership to make this known so that the ministry and the government can continue to press ahead and make successful inroads and partnerships directly with key industry representatives as we have been doing since taking office.”
And contrast it with the following from Premier McLaughlin: “I am pleased that a new president and Executive Committee of the Chamber has provided the opportunity of a renewed partnership between government and the Chamber of Commerce. I look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship which serves the interest of both the business community and the people of the Cayman Islands.”
Whose strategy do you think would be more effective — Minister River’s combativeness, or Premier McLaughlin’s rapprochement? Let’s compare results.
The statement from Minister Rivers (which, by the way, used the time-honored political tactic of manipulating facts in order to accuse the opponent of being untruthful) has, if anything, deepened divisions between herself and the Chamber, which she made clear she regards as an adversary.
Meanwhile, Premier McLaughlin’s alliance with the Chamber resulted in some of the country’s biggest employers — including Foster’s Food Fair Managing Director Woody Foster and Dart CEO Mark VanDevelde — pledging to work hand-in-hand with the premier in steering the Ready2Work project, and to help hundreds of unemployed Caymanians secure paid positions in the private sector.
New Chamber President Paul Pearson said, “It only makes sense for the Chamber as the most representative voice of the business community to be working in partnership with government to support and propose policies and initiatives that improve the business and labor environment.
“We may have differences of opinion and positions on some issues, but it is more important that we keep the channels of communication open.”
Now that’s encouraging.
Perusing the names of members of the Ready2Work task force, we see that Minister Rivers is included on the list. We suggest she take advantage of the group’s meetings to establish a working relationship that would prove beneficial to her goals as Minister of Employment.
Once she’s shaken hands and swapped business cards with the leader of her own government, perhaps Premier McLaughlin can then help her make some progress with the business community.