Statement by Minister Michael Fahy

Madam President
, I am pleased today to provide an update on policy work recently completed to create measures to discourage work permit violations.

Colleagues will already be aware that the current labour requirements experienced by many companies in Bermuda often need specific expertise where there is a shortage in Bermuda and thus the need for work permits.  This notwithstanding whilst employers are feeling the need to look abroad for skilled workers, the Government must ensure the protection and promotion of the Bermudian workforce. 

Generally, when a guest worker enters Bermuda he or she is required to have a work permit.  Such a work permit is issued by the Department of Immigration pursuant to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, and isto be granted by issuance of a labour market test, when the employer has demonstrated that there are no Bermudians available for the position, or to fill a labour shortage, or where other benefits could ensue.  In each case, the entry of the guest worker into the Bermudian labour force is governed by the terms and conditions set out in the work permit. 

Madam President, after a detailed review of historical data, it has been determined that three (3) forms of standard work permit violations occur:

a)      Employing a guest worker to engage in work which is different from the work specified in the work permit;

b)      Employing a guest worker who does not have a work permit; and

c)       Falsifying or providing incomplete records or withholding data or information, or provision of incomplete and invalid data for application of a work permit.

Madam President, to combat violations and send a strong deterrent message to employers it will be necessary to enhance the Department of Immigration’s enforcement powers by providing for the imposition of civil administrated penalties.   The objective is to introduce progressive disciplinary measures for employers who violate the Act. 

The Chief Immigration Officer therefore will be given specific authority under the Act.

Two specific civil penalty regimes will be set out in the legislation. This includes the establishment of absolute offenses which will be dealt with as ticketable offences and also non-ticketable offences wherein civil penalties will be pursued via the Courts. 

Tickets will be issued to offenders by the Chief Immigration Officer and a public register will be created wherein offenses and offenders will be documented. 

More serious cases will be referred to the Courts.  These matters too will be documented in the public register.

It is anticipated that the Chief Immigration Officer will ultimately have the authority to administer fines up to five thousand dollars ($5,000) for work permit violations, while the Courts will retain the authority to administer fines up to twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000) for work permit violations.

Madam President, the Ministry has reviewed Immigration Department work permit violations regimes in other jurisdictions including Cayman and the United Kingdom and I submit that the position that Bermuda seeks to adopt is consistent, though far more liberal than these jurisdictions. Our aim Madam President is not to be draconian in our approach but rather to strengthen our compliance mechanism through updating our legislative infrastructure in an effort to encourage employers to comply.  This will work in tandem with our ongoing effort to streamline work permit policies.

Madam President, we have commenced consultation with various stakeholder groups and over the coming weeks we expect to conclude our discussions and invite the Attorney General’s Chambers to produce the required Bill for consideration during the current legislative session.

Thank you Madam President.