New Work Permit Regime to Come on Stream Later This Month


Labour and Social Security Minister, Pearnel Charles has said that a new and liberalized work permit regime, that would facilitate greater flexibility in the employment of foreign skilled labour, is set to come on stream later this month.
Speaking at the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) members forum at the JEF’s Ruthven Road offices on April 3, Mr. Charles pointed out that the new regime was expected to make the process between application for and approval of permits “easier and shorter.”
He said that while companies seeking employees would be encouraged to draw on the local labour pool, they would not be prevented from looking outside Jamaica for the requisite skills and expertise needed.
“We (government) invite investors to come to Jamaica on the basis that we will give support to your investment. It means that you must find workers to work your money. (But) you need to advertise before you start your programme, and within a few days, if you don’t get the response that you want (from the local labour force), then please call for the worker from the Caribbean or any (other) part of the world,” Mr. Charles said.
The Minister explained that the regime would be revamped to facilitate co-operation between the Ministry and the immigration department to ensure that foreign professionals are not delayed or barred at the ports of entry, because the requisite paperwork was not done.
“We are going to computerize the whole process to make it easier and shorter. We are going to assign a number (to) your application when you make it, (so that) you can stay anywhere and trace your number. The immigration department will get your number and the person coming from overseas will have that number. (If) you are going to renew the permit, you will have a number, and (when) you call to find out about an application, you can access the system and it (information), will come up. You won’t be able, however, to apply for a work permit while you are a tourist in Jamaica,” Mr. Charles outlined.
In the same vein, the Minister advised that the Ministry would also be looking at putting interim measures and arrangements in place that could be implemented to address delays which might arise as a result of bureaucracy and other factors.
“We need to have some interim arrangement. If you are going to get a work permit, and we (Ministry) agree that your case warrants it, then there must be something that we can give you to move on. We shouldn’t allow the bureaucracy to prevent you from doing your job,” he emphasized.
Mr. Charles urged companies to give consideration to employing Jamaicans to understudy workers brought in from overseas, pointing out that this “has been the law for quite some time.”
The Minister noted that liberalization of the work permit regime to facilitate the entry of foreign professionals was not about making money, pointing out that the country stood to benefit from the “transfer of skills to Jamaica.”
“When you allow a Jamaican to understudy that person, that is transferring skill to Jamaica. Although some money will come out of it (work permits), we are going to give back some of the money. We are going to ask employers to join an apprenticeship programme to put young skilled Jamaicans to work in their business, to lift them to a higher standard and we are going to help you to pay the cost,” he advised.
On the matter of training, Mr. Charles lamented that approximately 65 per cent of the Jamaican workforce, particularly in the construction industry, were not certified, pointing out that the Ministry had moved to address this.
“We have started the most massive training, upgrading, and certification programme that the country has had for a long time. HEART (National Training Agency) is on a massive (training) programme; all vocational institutions have been summoned to go and train as many (workers as is possible),” the Minister said.

JIS Social