TUESDAY, MAY 22: Minister Patrice Minors said Bermudians must come first in employment matters but she is ‘sensitive to the needs’ of the business community with regard to work permits.
The Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry was speaking regarding the recently released Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) survey.
Meanwhile the Chamber of Commerce offered its support to the conclusions of the Bermuda Economic Impact Survey published by ABIR with president Ronnie Viera backing “any measures which promote growth in this sector.”
On Monday ABIR released results of its survey showing job declines by its members.
It added it is “worrisome” that five of its companies with the largest number of employees in Bermuda have down-sized by 23 per cent and that ABIR members directly contributed nearly $1 billion dollars to the Bermuda economy.
Mrs Minors, who is the Minister responsible for work permit matters, said: “I want to assure both the local and international business sectors that we are seeking to strike the right balance in these tough times between ensuring that companies are afforded the resources that they need, and ensuring that Bermudians that are available for employment obtain a job for which they are suitably qualified.
“I announced some weeks back that we are sensitive to the needs of our business organizations and in that respect, I did confirm that an internal Work Permit Policy review is underway – this would include the reorganisation of our work permit section.
“As a result of the review, there are number of initiatives that we are considering that we will share directly with relevant stakeholders. The recommendations, once approved by Cabinet, will be included in the existing work permit policies.
“I think it’s also important to point out that we are taking steps to ensure that our business partners are supported. The public will be aware that the Incentives for Job Creators Act came into effect January 2012.
“Companies that have invested in Bermuda and Bermudians have been encouraged to apply for the benefits, which extends to concessions including having up to five senior executives exempt from work permit control.
“These executives can apply for a Permanent Resident’s Certificate once they meet the eligibility requirements. With regard to our 10-year Work Permit Policy, we can confirm that to date five ten-year work permit applications have been submitted.”
On Monday, ABIR said: “We appreciate the action the Government has taken with regard to the Job Creator’s Act. Accelerated action by the Government to encourage ABIR members to locate senior executives here in Bermuda would be helpful. As the numbers from our survey demonstrate, there is a direct correlation between these senior executives being in Bermuda and employment opportunities for Bermudians.”
Minister Minors said that eligibility criteria for the 10-year work permit has been revised and extended to include those working at the Head of the Department level within the international business sector.
She added: “Overall while our first priority is to ensure that Bermudians are afforded employment, we are keen to create a climate that will help keep companies in Bermuda as partners in our country’s long-term future.”
Meanwhile, Mr Viera said: “The fact that employment in the International Business sector has been in decline since 2007 is borne out by the Chamber’s own research, and by job statistics kept by Government.
“There is no question that the growth of the local economy, and the number of jobs available to Bermudians, is directly correlated to the success of international business.
“The Chamber, which represents both the local and international business community, is clearly on record as supporting any measures which promote growth in this sector.”
Mr Viera said the reduction in employment, as stated in the ABIR report, translates into fewer jobs in Bermuda; lower tax revenues; less compounding economic activity from highly compensated executives; and fewer business travellers arriving on the island to use local hotels and restaurants.
He said: “The Chamber’s Economics Advisory Committee has conducted several presentations to its membership outlining the current economic situation and suggesting solutions. Key among these is immigration reform and the need to make the island more welcoming and attractive to international business and foreign investment overall.”
Here is a summary of the data of ABIR expenses in Bermuda in 2011:
• Travel and Entertainment: $28.3 million on hotels, air fare, restaurants, taxis and catering.
• Business Services: $86 million on legal, accounting, actuarial, temporary services.
• Charitable Giving: $12 million.
• Construction, Real Estate and Housing Costs: $121 million.
• Employment: 1,666 full time people in Bermuda. The percentage of the ABIR Bermuda employees that were Bermudian in 2011 was 67 per cent.
Employee Departures from Bermuda: With the 2011 survey for the first time ABIR collected data from members about employee relocations out of Bermuda. Here’s what we found:
1. During the last calendar year 45 employees left Bermuda to work for their companies outside of Bermuda.
2. Of the larger number of employees that left Bermuda for a variety of reasons (new employer, retirement, reduction in force), 51 were reported to be in Executive/Senior/or Middle Management positions.