Beautiful Virgin Islands

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Multiyear work permits for expats bad for locals — Labour Commish

Multiyear work permits for expats bad for locals — Labour Commish

Acting Labour Commissioner Michelle McLean has suggested that multiyear work permits for expatriate workers may put locals at a disadvantage in the workforce.
While acknowledging in a recent virtual stakeholders meeting that there are provisions currently in the labour Code to implement three-year work permits, McLean was hesitant about using this as an across-the-board measure to alleviate the significant backlog faced by her department.

“I think we would have to look at the specific industry… because doing so would place BVIslanders/Belongers at a disadvantage,” McLean said while responding to a resident who proposed for the department to use multiyear permits.

She continued: “You would appoint somebody with a three-year work permit and a BVIslander/Belonger may want to come home, they desire to go into another job and because of that, they are unable to.”

McLean told stakeholders that she felt there couldn’t be a blanket approach to addressing the particular challenge of processing work permits quickly. She said a clause may need to be implemented to somehow push the Labour Department to process permits in a workable timeframe.

Meanwhile, Labour Minister Vincent Wheatley said he was in agreement with the Labour Commissioner on the matter and shared her concerns.

“We have to make sure that as we get our Labour Force organised, that at the same time, we don’t disenfranchise the locals,” Minister Wheatley stated.

The minister said he agreed, though, that the proposal of multi-year work permits was something worth exploring deeper and expressed that it may work as a short term solution.

“In the short term, if somebody is going to get a two-year permit or you decide a certain number gets two years, it’s going to cut down on the congestion in the office for next year,” he shared.

The Labour Department has come in for considerable flack over the last few months for months-long delays in renewing work permits and approving new ones.

A new system that allows for online work permit applications to be processed has been riddled with challenges since its implementation. This has been cited as the main reason for the backlog.

The Labour Commissioner also argued that the new system required duplication of efforts on the part of an already severely short-staffed department.
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