Photo Courtesy of TNN

Guest workers were put on notice last night that the Bermuda Government will “now be closely scrutinizing” the island’s work permit policy due to the widespread unemployment caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the latest briefing on Thursday, National Security Minister Wayne Caines said this deadly virus “has resulted in business and economic uncertainty and widespread unemployment globally”.

“Consequently, here at home, as we progress forward, we will need to review, reassess and reevaluate our immigration policies and procedures in order to adapt to these unprecedented times,” he said.

“More specifically, we will now be closely scrutinizing our work permit policy as there are a significant number of Bermudians who are unemployed.

“We must now look at closing certain categories.
“Quite frankly, permission to reside and seek employment is going to being assessed on a case by case basis.

“Employers and guest workers must understand that in this current climate, work permit approvals are not guaranteed.

“In instances where there are clearly opportunities for hiring Bermudians, work permits will be denied.

“And as a result in some of these cases, guest workers may need to leave the island if their work permit is not granted.

“We will make every effort to balance the need for work permit holders who provide specialized services to remain in those roles.

“However, in these cases, the local business must provide training, development and succession planning for Bermudians to take over in these roles.”
For guest workers with work permits that will expire between June 1, 2020 and September 1, 2020, he said: “Work permit holders can continue to work without penalty or the need for an appeal to the Minister responsible for Immigration.
“While this Government recognizes the significance and sensitivities associated with the topic of immigration, as a country we are facing times of the likes we have never seen before.”
But he said: “Bermudians also have a responsibility.

“They must retrain where necessary, and they must be willing to work in other areas of industry that they may not be used to.

“Ultimately, this Government has a responsibility to ensure Bermudians have access to employment opportunities.

“We’ve heard the heartache of our people who have been left without work due to COVID-19.

“We’ve heard the devastating accounts of Bermudian families who during the economic shut down have been desperately trying to make ends meet; who have been desperately trying to pay mortgages and rent; and who have been desperately trying to put food on the table for their children.

“These are real accounts from people who we know — our brothers, our sisters, our close family members, our neighbours and our friends.

“So this Government is urging our businesses as they reopen – to consider hiring out of work Bermudians to provide a service in their establishments,” said Mr Caines.
“If a Bermudian can do that job instead of a guest worker, than the Bermudian worker should take precedence.

“During this time of uncertainty, we must all do our part to help and support one another.

“And our businesses have a significant role to play in ensuring that Bermudians are employed,” he added.
“Finally, the public is reminded that they can report any immigration breaches via the Tip Line at 296-5202 or they can call 295-5151, ext. 3514, 3515, 1951 or 1694.”