EDITORIAL – Miller ‘flying blind’ in complaints about CIAA recruitment

If Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller had to undergo emergency life-saving surgery, would he stop the doctors from scrubbing up, in order to check their immigration status? If he were being robbed, would he turn police away if he thought the responding officers were not from the Cayman Islands?

We presume not, because – as most rational people would agree – it makes no difference where a skilled professional or highly qualified expert is from – nor what their gender, religion, marital status or favorite color, for that matter, happens to be. When the best person is needed for a job, only the best will do. Demographic details do not apply.

The role of air traffic controller certainly meets the criteria of a demanding and exacting profession that must, without fail, be conducted only by exceptionally qualified individuals. These are, after all, the people whose responsibility is to manage the complex and voluminous flow of air traffic in and out of the airport airspace, ensuring the safe departure and arrival of airplanes (which ferried more than 1.2 million passengers in and out of Owen Roberts International Airport, alone, last year).

In a statement released early this week, Mr. Miller called the Cayman Islands Airports Authority’s regional recruitment drive for air traffic controllers “highly suspect,” writing, “On the face of it, this just doesn’t seem justifiable, especially as it is very likely to place these jobs ultimately out of reach of Caymanians.”

Mr. Miller accused the CIAA of “dangling” generous benefits packages like “carrots” to recruit international workers. Mr. Miller’s purported fear is that skilled and qualified overseas recruits may take root and “become absorbed on a permanent basis” into the fabric of Cayman’s community. The representative from North Side’s complaint is based on the absurd protectionist fantasy that a small population such as Cayman’s can find “homegrown” experts in all the specialized fields necessary for prosperity in a complex global economy. That, of course, is fiction. What is true, however, and thankfully so, is that Cayman is in the position to draw talent from all over the world – not all territories, or even large nations, are so fortunate. Indeed, because of a variety of economic and social deficiencies, many municipalities and jurisdictions find themselves having to make do with poorly qualified candidates who yield predictably poor results.

Mr. Miller’s “deep concern” about recent international recruitment efforts by the Airports Authority is, in brief, short-sighted and misplaced.

Beyond the fundamentals, Mr. Miller’s assumptions about this particular scenario are mistaken, as the CIAA pointed out in a lengthy response on Wednesday (see today’s Front Page story). The CIAA outlined in great detail the authority’s exhaustive efforts to recruit and train local air traffic controller candidates in recent years.

The CIAA pointed out the inherent advantage that local candidates have over international applicants, writing, “It is neither advantageous nor prudent to pay for contracted services, whenever local candidates are available. The CIAA has evidenced our commitment to recruiting and training our local population by its current employee head count of 196 employees, with exactly one Work-Permit holder.”

One.