Did you know that Bermuda has not changed the way that work permits have been issued since the advent of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 62 years ago?

That was one of the disclosures made by Governor John Rankin when he delivered the Progressive Labour Party government’s second Speech From The Throne last Friday (November 9).

While discussing the island’s law on immigration and labour, he said: “Bermuda’s global competitiveness is dependent on our ability to ensure that international companies have access to the intellectual capital required to drive our economy.

“Therefore, the Government will move from a ‘one size fits all’ model of work permit processing to a model where good corporate citizens who hire, train and promote Bermudians will have access to a more streamlined process. The scrutiny needed for bad employers should not subject good corporate citizens to delays.

“Concurrently, companies that discriminate against Bermudians in hiring will be subject to additional scrutiny and graduated penalties.

“Another area in need of modernisation and greater clarity is labour law,” he said.

“Protections for employees, whether unionised or not, must be strengthened. This protection must also extend to sexual harassment in the workplace. During this session, the Legislature will be invited to consider a bill to codify Bermuda’s labour relations legislation into one Act, concurrent with amendments to modernise labour laws.”

Moving forward, he said: “Our immigration laws must better reflect the mandate of this Government in putting Bermudians first. That means that a balance must be struck between the legitimate expectations of Bermudians in their own land and the legitimate labour needs of businesses.

“Historically that balance has not been struck, and throughout our history immigration has been used to achieve aims that had nothing to do with economic growth. That historical legacy has tainted the issue for many Bermudians’ yet we must have mature debate on reforming and progressing immigration in a manner that works best for a better, fairer Bermuda.

“During this session, the Legislature will be invited to consider bills that simplify issues surrounding Bermudian status, the status of PRC holders and Bermudian status for mixed-status families.”

According to a recent survey, business confidence plunged over the past two years.

The Bermuda Business Confidence Survey, sponsored by HSBC Bermuda pointed up immigration and the need to improve the work permit application processes as the number one change that could impact our economy positively.

More than a hundred business leaders representing a cross section of local and international companies in Bermuda were surveyed by Total Research Associates with Corporate Research Associates, a Canadian partner.

Less than half of them said they were confident in the island’s economic future, representing a 20-point drop from the 2016 results.