Scores of work permits denied since pandemic
Almost 160 applications for work-permit renewals were denied since Covid-19 hit the country, the House of Assembly heard yesterday.
Jason Hayward, the labour minister, who has responsibility for immigration, also listed more than 60 job categories affected after questions from Sylvan Richards, of the One Bermuda Alliance.
The Opposition claimed later that a lack of information about the availability of qualified Bermudians to take the posts could put businesses at risk.
Mr Richards, the shadow home affairs and environment minister, asked how many work-permit renewals were “applied for but subsequently denied since the inception date of the first curfew imposed in relation to Covid-19”.
Mr Hayward said the total was 159.
He told members of the House in a virtual sitting that the figures included 26 food and beverage servers, 19 chefs de partie, 14 waiters or waitresses and three silver service food and drink waiting staff.
Other positions affected included nine landscape gardeners, three masons, a paralegal, a mechanic, a fire protection specialist and an accountant.
Mr Richards asked how many “qualified Bermudians registered with the Department of Workforce Development” were available to take the positions in each category.
Mr Hayward replied: “This information is not available to the House at this time for two reasons.
“First, the system and processes within the Department of Workforce Development are not yet at a point of maturity to enable this data to be completed.”
He added that some of the information had not been compiled and some may not be not up to date.
Mr Hayward added: “Second, the categories of information in the workforce development IT system do not directly align with the immigration work-permit descriptions, leading to a mapping exercise being required.
“This is not precise and would provide misleading comparisons.”
The minister added that he expected systems to be put in place to retrieve the information and would make it available to the Opposition when the work was completed.
Craig Cannonier, the OBA leader, said later: “The Government today admitted it had refused work permits without knowing if qualified Bermudians were available to apply for the vacant positions.”
He added: “The minister stated that work permits were denied without knowing if there were Bermudians qualified and applying for the positions.
“Among the permits denied were 19 chefs de partie, the main cook in the kitchen. How can a restaurant carry on if there are no suitable people to fill these vacancies?
“This kind of thing could jeopardise Bermudian businesses and Bermudian jobs.”
Mr Cannonier added: “Three masons were also denied. If we do not have the information on who is trained and available for these jobs, this could shut down the projects and put this business in jeopardy.
“We have to be sensible and not put Bermudian businesses and Bermudian jobs at risk.”