Gov’t to require jobs to be registered with NWDA

Of 62 affected by MEPCO closure, 20 were Caymanian, records show

Employers will have to register job vacancies with the National Workforce Development Agency at least two weeks before applying for a work permit to hire a non-Caymanian following a vote last week in the Legislative Assembly.

Lawmakers spent the better part of a day debating the motion to require registering job vacancies and proposed new rules for giving Caymanians priority when companies have to make layoffs. The debate came days after contracting company MEPCO went into liquidation, surprising employees with sudden layoffs.

MEPCO had 62 employees, 20 of whom were Caymanian, according to data released by the Immigration Department Tuesday.

Lawmakers approved a private-member’s motion Thursday after hours of debate and criticism of employers for hiring overseas workers instead of local applicants. The amendment changes part of the Immigration Law, making it mandatory for employers to register job openings with government.

The motion passed unanimously with vocal support from government and the opposition.

Employment Minister Tara Rivers and Premier Alden McLaughlin both expressed concerns over not having enough staff at the NWDA to cross-check job applications with work permit approvals.

“I don’t know if the NWDA has the capacity,” the premier said, adding that the agency would likely need “significant increases.”

Members of the Legislative Assembly did not act on proposals to give Caymanian workers priority when companies have to make layoffs. Ms. Rivers told legislators that new rules on companies that lay off Caymanians will be included in the Labour Relations Bill, currently in the public review stage and expected before the Assembly next year.

Opposition and independent members in the Legislative Assembly peppered the Legislative Assemblyminister with questions about protections for Caymanian employees and requirements for employers when they make layoffs.

Under the current rules, employers do not have to notify government before making layoffs, as in the case of MEPCO last week. MEPCO told employees on Monday that that was their last day and the company went into voluntary liquidation on Tuesday.

Liquidator Kenneth Krys told the Cayman Compass last week that approximately 50 people were laid off.

Data from the Immigration Department shows that MEPCO had 42 work permit holders and 20 local employees.

Minister Rivers told the Legislative Assembly last week that the National Workforce Development Agency and the Department of Labour and Pensions request employers notify them before any layoffs of Caymanians, but it is not mandatory.

She said the two departments in her ministry “arrange to meet with the employer jointly to ensure that Caymanians are retained where possible.” That meeting is also not mandatory.

Ms. Rivers said the new Labour Relations Bill will tackle some of those thorny questions. She said the bill as written includes requirements for employers making layoffs to report who their employees are, their nationalities, qualifications and other data points to judge if Caymanians were laid off improperly.

The Labour Relations Bill also gives people with Caymanian status or permanent residency priority over work permit holders when a company has to make layoffs.


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