Plans to implement a term limit on residency for non-Caymanian government workers have never materialized, largely because there is no “easy” way to replace foreign employees in teaching or law enforcement roles, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson acknowledged Tuesday.
Since January 2004, all non-Caymanian private sector workers have been subject to a term limit on the time they can reside in the territory. Between 2004 and October 2013, that time limit was seven years. Since October 2013, the time limit has been nine years. The provision is often referred to as the “rollover” policy.
There has never been any corresponding “rollover” for non-Caymanian civil servants, despite several political pushes to implement it by successive governments.
All non-Caymanian civil servants are allowed to continue working for government, regardless of their immigration status, as long as their contracts are renewed. At present there are nearly 1,000 non-Caymanian workers in the government service – about 17 percent of the entire public sector workforce.
The difficulty, according to the deputy governor, is that non-Caymanian employees are not equally distributed throughout government.
“We have to be very careful about this,” Mr. Manderson told the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee Tuesday. “We could end up in a situation where, in a year’s time, half your teachers have to leave, or half your police officers have to leave.”
For at least the last 10 years, the number of non-Caymanians working under the Ministry of Education, which includes the Education Department, has hovered around 60 percent, according to annual government human resource reports. The vast majority of those foreign employees are teachers.
Non-Caymanian police officers now make up about 55 percent of the non-civilian personnel in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, based on information provided to the Cayman Compass earlier this year.
Other civil service departments have relatively high ratios of non-Caymanian workers, including the Health Services Authority, which employs a significant number of foreign doctors and nurses.
“[Non-Caymanian workers] are in the prisons, they are in the Department of Children and Family Services, they are in the judicial section, they are auditors,” Mr. Manderson said. “We don’t have a lot of people coming back [from university] to take those jobs.”
While the civil service “rollover” is something that has been discussed for a while, the deputy governor said it is “not an easy thing to do,” because of the employment issues that will arise after it is implemented.
“I am not against it,” he said, referring to his ideological position on the civil service rollover. “I do believe that we should have similar rules in the public sector as in the private sector.”
While the private sector term limit policy has led to thousands of non-Caymanians losing their employment and leaving the islands over the years, it has not caused the overall number of work permits held by non-Caymanians in the territory to decrease.
In fact, Immigration Department records show the opposite. As of June 30, there were more than 24,500 non-Caymanians working in the islands. In 2004, the year the rollover policy was implemented, there were fewer than 11,000 non-Caymanians working here, according to the government Department of Economics and Statistics.
In contrast, Mr. Manderson said the civil service has made significant strides to replace non-Caymanian workers with Caymanians in the absence of a rollover policy. Government statistics show that non-Caymanian civil service workers fell from a high of about 1,400 in 2008 to fewer than 1,000 who are currently employed.
“We don’t have a lot of foreign nationals in those mid-manager, supervisor positions,” Mr. Manderson said. “Nothing gives us more pleasure than our young people coming back and joining their civil service.”