Minister blasts shadow’s ‘irresponsible’ comments on work permits
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy has accused his shadow counterpart Walter Roban of “purposely” misleading the public and “damaging” Bermuda's reputation.
“Irresponsible, short-sighted and ill-informed”, were just some of the terms used to describe comments made by the Opposition MP and published in this newspaper on Saturday.
Responding to the article, Sen Fahy moved to clarify Government policy on procedure for work permit applications.
Said Sen Fahy: “MP Roban's statements are short sighted and completely off base.”
“In his usual fashion of using emotive rhetoric over substance he indicates a complete lack of knowledge of the immigration process.
“Frankly his statements are irresponsible and appear to be designed to incite.”
Mr Roban challenged Government to explain why nearly 250 work permits were granted for foreign tradesmen while Bermudians workers remain out of work.
He charged that new Government initiatives amounted to nothing in the form of serious change in the job prospects for unemployed Bermudians.
This after Home Affairs spokesman in the House, Michael Dunkley disclosed that as of September, work permits had been granted for 164 mason, 30 plumbers and 55 carpenters.
Bermudians registered as unemployed in those categories stood at 33 masons, 14 carpenters and nine plumbers.
Of the 164 permits granted for masons, 50 were approved prior to January, as was the case for 17 of the 30 plumbers and 23 of the 55 permits for carpenters.
The Minister, in response, stressed work permit applications “are vetted by technical officers and then the Board — a Board which is fully representative of Bermuda's industries — construction, banking, hospitality, restaurants, local insurance and international business”.
“It also includes a representative from Bermuda's unions. In fact the board appointed by this Government has four of the same members appointed by the former PLP administration.”
And he stressed that the protection of Bermudian jobs is one of the Ministry's top priorities.
“I make determinations based on applications that are appealed. We are in a constant struggle with employers who try to circumvent the system,” he added.
“As an example, one employer recently tried to obtain two work permits for masons — saying he will employ two Bermudians when there is work — of course such an application was rejected.
“It is circumstances like these which led this Government to pass the recent work permit violations regime — which the former PLP government had ample opportunity to do.
“It's situations such as these which led this Government to make employers list names and addresses of all Bermudian applicants and give reasons why they are supposedly not suitable.
“And it's cases like this which led this Government to require more groups of employers to consult with the Department of Workforce Development.
“We are focused on ensuring that Bermudians receive the necessary support to help them navigate in this changing workforce and economy. In fact, it's this Government which will be introducing a training requirement formally into work permit policy — rather than the ad hoc training policy that simply did not work as is demonstrated today.
“The stark reality is that the former PLP government issued more work permits than anytime in Bermuda's history without regard for Bermudian workers and the knock on effect of their short term strategies.”
The Minister concluded: “This Government has worked extremely hard these past ten months to try and tackle the disastrous mess left behind by the former PLP Government.
“A mess which included high unemployment, a broken economy and a Government debt which was unsustainable.
“Mr Roban should cease this continuous emotive rhetoric, as his comments do nothing to support Bermuda's reputation.
“And sadly each time he delivers such commentary, his messages resonate negatively in both our local and overseas business communities.”
“I have said in the Senate that I have in fact defended the Opposition in meetings, noting that they understand the realities of Bermuda's economic state and that their policies led us to where we are — but they get that.
“I hope Mr Roban does not prove me wrong. His party's policies have already done enough damage.
“Finally, with the introduction of these policies by this Government, I am confident that both the Department of Immigration and the Department of Workforce Development are moving in the right direction to restoring hope and fairness to a system that left many Bermudians and our guest workers feeling despondent.
“And I commend the officers in both the Immigration and Workforce Development Departments who have worked extremely hard in turning things around, and I am very proud of their efforts and achievements thus far in these trying times.”