WEDNESDAY, FEB. 9: Landscaping firms will be crippled by new work permit regulations, bosses told us yesterday.

They say Government’s move to ban foreign workers in the trade and open up positions for Bermudians will lead to them closing down altogether.

The companies affected called an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss their options.

And plans are already afoot to form a Bermuda Landscaping Association.

An executive at one of the island’s biggest landscape gardening firms told the Bermuda Sun the temporary permit ban would spell the end for the company.

She said: “We are all in the same boat. It is going to be horrendous. As of March we are going to be out of business. All of our work permits will expire and that will be it.

“We were horrified when we heard this would be happening and all the companies have got together.”

The boss, who asked not to be named, added: “We feel angry. We have tried to hire Bermudians but they just do not stay.

“Now we are going to have to say goodbye to workers from the Azores and Jamaica who do a great job for us.

“We hear about companies that are going out of business because they do not have enough work. We have lots of work but the Government is going to close us down.”

More than 300 applications for work permits in a range of professions will be turned down in the next three months.

These include renewal applications for foreigners currently working in Bermuda, meaning many will have to return to their homelands, creating a slew of job vacancies.

Kim Wilson, Minister for the Economy, Trade and Industry, said last week the move is in the best interests of Bermudians who had faced redundancies due to the recession.

The policy affects landscape gardeners, cleaners, kitchen and bar porters, housekeepers and skilled labourers. Another boss of a major landscaping firm, who asked not to be named, told the Bermuda Sun he would lose half of his work force due to the new rules.

He said: “This is going to cripple my company. I will lose half of my staff. I don’t know how they expect us to carry on and operate.

“I have no problem taking on Bermudians but once the guys we have at the moment waiting on permits go, who is going to drive my trucks and do the work?

“We have been running for many years but this really puts the whole company in jeopardy.”

Ms Wilson said employers looking for people to fill positions should contact the Department of Labour and Training.

She added: “We have to do what we can to provide jobs for Bermudians.

“We have seen some examples where companies will have migrant workers for a variety of reasons — because they are prepared to accept a lower wage or they are coming from countries that are not as economically stable as Bermuda.

“These companies still have to try and employ Bermudians and these companies are going to have to do it better.

“If they are able to show that the absence of the migrant worker in untenable they can go through an appeal process.

“This is Bermuda and Bermudians need to be given opportunities.”