Premier Alden McLaughlin

Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin has promised stricter enforcement against local businesses’ hiring and promotion practices that are designed to skirt immigration rules.

The comments came Thursday morning during a speech to a packed Fidelity Cayman Economic Outlook conference at the Kimpton Seafire resort. The address covered a broad range of topics, from blockchain currency to U.S. President Donald Trump’s opposition to high taxes. However, woven throughout the speech was the premier’s recently repeated message about local businesses doing their part to ensure “full Caymanian unemployment.”

“I am not playing politics, or playing at all,” Mr. McLaughlin said of his pledge to effect “zero Caymanian unemployment.”

“I am very serious about my government’s determination to give every Caymanian who is willing, able and qualified to work the opportunity to do so,” he said.

Mr. McLaughlin, who is also the head of the Ministry of Human Resources, Immigration and Community Affairs, said his ministry intended to “strengthen” Cayman’s business staffing rules. At present, every company which employs 15 or more non-Caymanians on work permits must file a business staffing plan, which is reviewed by the relevant immigration board. The regime was put in place more than 10 years ago to ensure Caymanian workers were hired at some of the larger companies on island.

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These staffing plans set out the general operations of the business, the names of employees holding various positions and future plans for development and growth. In the case of a plan that contains the hiring, promotion or development of a Caymanian employee, immigration staff would check to see if those plans were followed.

“To ensure that qualified and experienced Caymanians are not being wrongly overlooked for promotion, we will strengthen the business staffing plan regime to ensure that commitments given by employers with respect to the hiring, training and promotion of Caymanian employees are being fulfilled,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Mr. McLaughlin also raised the issue of job advertisements placed in local printed media and online publications. He said government would seek to “close loopholes” in current immigration regulations that work against local employees.

“[These include] insisting that jobs must be advertised locally before being advertised overseas,” he said.

There is also a concern within government that the content of local ads does not match those being advertised overseas, the premier said.

“We cannot continue to allow a low salary with few benefits to be advertised in Cayman, whilst a more advantageous salary and benefits package for the same post is advertised overseas, “ he said.

Government is also likely to consider legal requirements that any company looking to hire an employee state their name in the advertisement. There are job ads posted from time to time that contain only a phone number and no reference to a contact name or the name of the business doing the hiring.

Finally, the premier pledged that government would also review “the role of employment agencies and their negative impact on the employment of Caymanians.”

“The Caymanian success story has been built on the implicit understanding that Caymanians must have a real opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, our economic growth,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “This is the Cayman “economic contract” that created the success from which we now all benefit.”

Tax justice?

Speaking before an international audience, the premier took a jab at a report released Tuesday by the U.K.-based Tax Justice Network which named the Cayman Islands as the “third most secretive jurisdiction in the world,” behind Switzerland and the U.S.

Mr. McLaughlin said the U.K.-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has confirmed Cayman’s compliance with international financial services regulations, putting the British territory “in the league” of countries such as Germany, Canada and the U.K.

“Yet [in the Tax Justice Network report] China is ranked 28th and Russia 29th,” the premier said. “Surely, no report with these rankings can be credible.”

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