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Brown’s PRC comments are ‘alarmist’

The Minister of Home Affairs Patricia Gordon-Pamplin has lashed out at her opposite number, calling PLP MP Walton Brown's comments on immigration “inaccurate and alarmist”.

In a statement released on Sunday, Mr Brown took issue with the MarketPlace supermarket's attempt to secure the Permanent Resident's Certificate for five of their expatriate employees.

He claimed the Incentives for Job Makers Act, which was approved in 2013, had been subjected to misuse.

However, Ms Gordon-Pamplin said yesterday no PR certificates had been approved and they were under review.

“Nothing has been granted. I wish that MP Brown would have contacted myself or the Permanent Secretary before issuing a public statement as it puts the department in an unfair position of having to respond to matters that are under review and incomplete.”

His statement “is unfortunately both inaccurate and alarmist”.

The supermarket's application for five long-time employees was received on December 22, 2016.

“It is important for the public to understand what is required in order for persons to ultimately apply for a PRC,” explained the minister.

“There are a number of checks that must be done before an application can be finalised. Persons cannot apply for PRCs until the application for concessions has been completed. Exemptions have to be approved for individuals before they can make an application to the Department of Immigration for a PRC.”

She added: “The intent of the original Incentives outlined in the Jobmakers Act 2011 was to encourage more investment that would provide more jobs to Bermuda. While international business easily fits into this intent, there is no impediment against local companies applying for the concessions.

“It cannot be ignored that there are local businesses that also benefit from foreign investment to support their operations. The fact that their ownership can be up to 40 per cent non-Bermudian speaks to this and they may be able to obtain concessions under Section 3B of the Economic Development Act 1968.”

In Section 3B (2) states:

“The Minister of Home Affairs may designate a company as a company whose senior executive employees can apply for exemption from Part V of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, under section 5 of this Act, where the Minister is satisfied that the company:

(a) has at least 10 persons with Bermudian status on its staff;

(b) has persons with Bermudian status employed at all levels in the company, subject to the availability of suitably qualified Bermudians;

(c) provides entry-level positions for persons with Bermudian status;

(d) has programmes in place for developing and promoting persons with Bermudian status; and

(e) exercises employment practices which have not regularly required the intervention of labour relations officers of the Department of Workforce Development or the Human Rights Commission.”

However, Ms Gordon-Pamplin pointed to Section 5 of the Act which “sets a high bar for persons seeking exemptions”, such as:

• the applicant must be a person in a senior executive position in that company;

• the applicant must be responsible for making decisions that are critical to the continuity of the company in Bermuda;

• the continued presence of jobs in Bermuda with the company for persons with Bermudian status must be dependent on the applicant remaining in Bermuda.

Subsection 5 (5) states: An exemption shall not be granted under subsection (2) in respect of any person, unless the minister is satisfied that there is no person with Bermudian status in Bermuda with sufficient qualifications and experience available to undertake the work concerned, efficiently.

“For clarity, the government does not ‘allow' people to make applications,” said the minister.

“Anyone can make an application if they deem it to be appropriate and in accordance with the overarching legislation. The department only has control over the outcome of applications and all applications in this particular category to which MP Brown refers will be processed and decisions rendered according to their merit.”

In his statement on Sunday, Mr Brown said: “The PLP is extremely concerned that the Incentive for Job Makers Act is being stretched far beyond its original intended use.

“The law was introduced by the PLP to strengthen the international business sector to provide security to key executives to ensure these businesses continue operating in Bermuda to maintain and expand jobs for Bermudians.

“However, by allowing the MarketPlace, a six-decades old local grocery store chain, to apply for PRCs for five non-Bermudian executives, the OBA government has roamed far away from supporting international business. Without a rationale for this extension, the OBA's granting of PRCs to these men would be a manipulation of immigration policy reminiscent of the UBP's controversial 1970s policies”

“The OBA must explain why the Job Makers Act is being exploited to include local grocery stores, where Bermudian jobs have existed for decades. If the OBA awards PRCs to these men, their jobs will no longer need to be advertised and thus unavailable to Bermudians living here and Bermudians abroad who may be looking to return home. The PLP believes that all businesses, but especially local business such as the MarketPlace, should be looking to promote Bermudians. If the OBA grants these PRCs, it will continue its pattern of putting the interest of non-Bermudians ahead of Bermudians who may be looking for opportunities for advancement in their country of birth.”

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Minister of Home Affairs (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published February 13, 2017 at 3:04 pm (Updated February 14, 2017 at 7:23 am)

Brown’s PRC comments are ‘alarmist’

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