Work permit concerns grow

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April 24, 2013

The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. has expressed concern over the decision of the government to tighten its work permit policy, but Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said yesterday the Christie administration will make no apologies over its position.
"This is a rational policy by a rational government, which is acting reasonably in the defense of its own people," Mitchell said.
"This is the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and there is no apology that has to be made for a policy of Bahamians first."
In a press release, the embassy asked authorities in The Bahamas to let Filipinos who work here keep their jobs for the time being.
"We presented Manila's position on behalf of many of the more than 1,000 Filipinos in The Bahamas, particularly housekeepers, cooks, hotel employees and medical workers who stand to lose their jobs as a result of the so-called Bahamianization of the local labor force," said Consul General Ariel Penaranda in the release.
Penaranda led a team that visited officials in New Providence earlier this month.
Labor Attache Luzviminda Padilla said, "The position of The Bahamas authorities is completely understandable, but it would be greatly appreciated if our workers could be allowed to keep their jobs for the time being and at the same time be assured of certainty in terms of renewing their work permits so they could plan ahead."
Mitchell said in the House of Assembly in March that the government plans to cease issuing work permits for maids, housekeepers and laborers within a year.
Last year, Mitchell told reporters that he was concerned about the emergence of Filipino workers who are reportedly threatening Bahamian jobs as domestic workers.
He said conventional wisdom is that Bahamians do not want to do these kinds of jobs.
Mitchell said yesterday he wanted to put the work permit issue to rest.
"Whatever policy there is with regard to work permits the general principle applies, whether at the laboring level or whether at the management level," he said.
"Bahamians first and that means this, no work permit is going to be issued unless a Bahamian is not available for that job and that applies whether from the top down to the bottom.
"It applies whether it's the bank, whether it's the newspaper, whether it's the industrial sector up in Grand Bahama. It applies across the board."
Mitchell said people who currently hold work permits would not have them abruptly revoked.
"But at the point of which the work permit comes for renewal the question is asked afresh, is there a Bahamian available for this job? And if there is a Bahamian available for the job then a work permit will not be granted or issued," he said.
The Fox Hill MP noted that the Filipinos are the first to express concern over the proposed policy.
Mitchell described some public reaction to the government's position last month as 'hysterical".
St. Anne's Member of Parliament Hubert Chipman, who is also the shadow minister of immigration, called the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) plan "excessively aggressive".
Former Minister of State for Immigration Branville McCartney, who heads the Democratic National Alliance, also said it was "extreme" and lacking in foresight.
President and Managing Director at Atlantis George Markantonis said officials at the hotel are "very concerned" by the impending policy change.
He said the current foreign staff complement at the hotel is "critical" to Paradise Island's success.
Robert 'Sandy' Sands, senior vice president of administration and external affairs at Baha Mar, called for more clarity on the work permit issue.

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News date : 04/24/2013    Category : Nassau Guardian Stories

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