Senator Marc Daniels *File photo
Senator Marc Daniels *File photo

Statement by Senator Marc Daniels, Senate Spokesman – Home Affairs

In a recent announcement on Wednesday, 13 February 2013, Minister Fahy stated that the government will now turn their attention to work permit policy reform to “ensure a balance that does not disadvantage Bermudians, but instead provide support to ensure a beneficial, profitable, business sector in an effort to grow the economy – and as a consequence add new jobs”. We agree with the importance of the urgent work that needs to be done to ensure that Bermudians are afforded every opportunity to provide for our families and to diffuse the stresses caused by lack of employment opportunities, which affects not just crime statistics, but our general outlook and approach to life, our hope and our fate.

Some of the suggested policies were in fact initiated by the Progressive Labour Party, such as the requirement for competency with the English language, and therefore, we appreciate the government’s decision to continue to uphold those positive amendments.

However, based on the announcement as reported on Bernews, and the seven talking points raised (albeit not the full extent of amendments recommended) we are concerned whether sufficient public and private consultation has been conducted to ensure that the “final draft of the 2013 Work Permit Policy Plan” is robust and comprehensive enough to combat the frequent breaches witnessed in the work permit application process.

We are also concerned with the proposed amendment to permit the children of non-Bermudian residents to secure work opportunities without the need for a work permit. It is without question that all of us who reside on this island, whether Bermudians or expatriates, should share the same freedoms and equal treatment in our daily lives. However, in times where we are seeing unprecedented spikes in crime, particularly amongst our youth, our priority should not be to alienate them any further.

Our concern on this issue is that the suggested change in policy will “disadvantage” Bermudian youth, although unintended, as they seek their own opportunities in the workplace. We must all recognize that they are the future upon which our dreams and aspirations can be fulfilled. We therefore must take the utmost care to ensure their success in all of their pursuits.

Our primary goal is to ensure that our Bermudian young people are afforded the opportunity to gain meaningful work experience to fuel their passion for success, to create long-lasting relationships, which they may carry throughout their lives, and to provide a platform for growth. There is a real concern that the proposed amendment to permit another group of persons, who only reside in Bermuda due to their parents’ employment and who are not subject to work permit controls to secure gainful employment, will create future expectations which fly in the face of genuine policy reform. Bermudians will not see this as a wise policy move since our own children currently struggle to find employment opportunities whether full time or seasonal.

We must be willing to make concessions to ensure that our youth feel that they have a place within our country so that they may carry us to even greater heights.  We therefore ask that the government pause on any amendments as they relate to the employment opportunities for children of guest workers residing on the island until we can be certain that our Bermudian children are protected and afforded every opportunity to succeed.