Opposition Leader Hon. Edwin Astwood is accusing the Hon. Washington Misick administration of paying blatant disregard for the country's immigration laws.
In a lengthy news release, Astwood, who also head of his opposition Peoples Democratic Movement, accused the government for, among other things, allowing contractual workers to move from one one department to the next, without going through the proper channel.
The following is Opposition Leader's Statement:
In recent days citizens have been drawing attention to what they see as a gross disregard for the immigration laws of the Turks and Caicos. Immediately one may think that this is some big foreign-owned business or some big hotel, but it is not. Instead, it is our very own government ministries and the bodies associated with them.
A number persons have drawn to my attention that there are contract workers moving from job to job within the civil service. This is no knock on the contract worker, but a huge disservice to Turks and Caicos Islanders. The contract worker does not shortlist themselves; they do not interview themselves, and they do not recommend themselves for the available post. Senior government officials in the various departments do.
I must also state here, that senior government officials (managers and directors) are not always Turks and Caicos Islanders. However, all top management in the ministries is, i.e.; Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Permanent Secretaries, and Ministers.
The government tells employers in the private sector that their employees have to leave the country before being allowed to take up a new job/position, that was not approved on their initial work permit. Even though government contract workers do not require a work permit, they do have specific terms of reference in their contracts. I do not know of the existence of any new policy that allows contract workers to will move from job to job within the civil service.
This should not be allowed, and it is shameful for any government to be allowing it.
It was also brought to my attention that persons on work permits themselves are applying for work permits for others. This occurrence must be put to an end immediately.
I do not know of any country in the world which would allow this. At this present moment in the history of the country, we should not waste time and effort trying to decipher which political administration it started under, or when it started. It is happening and it must be stopped period.
From my past experience as Health Services Manager, I am aware that there was a policy addressing cases where a contract worker is seeking to be accompanied by a caregiver for a special needs child, or a parent or grandparent, who required specific attention, then the respective ministry or statutory body heads, after carrying out due diligence, would submit a request to the immigration department on the behalf of their contract worker.
The request would be for a government stamp to be placed in the accompanying individual’s passport, allowing them to be legal in the country and able to provide the special services required by the contract worker.
The contract worker was never allowed to apply on their own
The immigration laws state that only Self-Employed Person’s and Freelancer’s work permit applications are eligible to be submitted by an employee. All other applications must be submitted by the employer or by agencies/firms accredited to do so on their behalf. And a work permit application should only be submitted if an employee/s is/are needed to perform a real job and all efforts to recruit a Turks and Caicos Islander have failed.
It is my opinion that a labour clearance certificate should be denied if there is a qualified and available Turks and Caicos Islanders, and we have to be extremely vigilant in ensuring that whenever an application for a labour clearance is issued, we do not issue if there is a qualified Turks and Caicos Islander.
A PDM government, under my leadership, will ensure that more vigilance is occurring to guarantee that where there are qualified, available, trained, unemployed Turks and Caicos Islanders that they get those opportunities. We have to say to that business owner/employer, and yes, even to our heads of government departments ‘this is denied.’
*A PDM government, under my leadership, will ensure that and up to date, “TCI skills database” is in place. This skills database would not only include the skills of unemployed Turks & Caicos Islanders, but also the employed citizens.
This will also give our highly skilled and experienced employed citizens a chance to be considered for a higher caliber of jobs that they may otherwise not hear of.
Additionally, in this TCI Skills database, we will also include Turks and Caicos Islanders living and working outside the country. Therefore, we will encourage those Turks and Caicos Islanders who are professionally qualified, whether you are employed or not employed, inside or outside the country:
If they are unemployed and looking for a job,
If they are looking to move from one job to another,
If they are looking for a higher-paying job,
If they are considering moving back home,
To register with our database.
A PDM Government will utilize this database and identify those unemployed Turks and Caicos Islanders, and in some instances employed Turks and Caicos Islanders, and we will send them their resumes. We would say that you must consider these applications before any consideration is given for the granting of a work permit.
This will be beneficial to our people and to our businesses. It is far more cost-effective for a business and the government to hire suitable Turks and Caicos Islanders than to bring in workers on a work permit.
Hence, we will work with the business community to utilize the services of the Labour Department to ensure that they have every opportunity to hire our highly desirable Turks and Caicos Islanders.
A PDM government, under my leadership, will stop looking at work permit fees as a major revenue earner, and make up for that loss in other areas that are not on the backs of our citizens.
We will also work hand in hand with our private sector in order to obtain an environment that is mutually beneficial to them, to the government, to the people, and to the country as a whole, allowing all to achieve success.