The man who was responsible for the Miami-based Liaison Office, which administers a hotel attachment programme for Barbadians in the United States, is defending the operations there.
Last week, Barbados TODAY reported that an audit of that office by the Auditor General showed that during the last four years, not a single Barbadian worker was selected to work under the seasonal employment programme.
However, responding to the article (OUT OF WORK), former liaison officer George Mayers told Barbados TODAY that there were some “half-truths” in the Auditor General’s report, which he said did not highlight the reason why no one was selected.
Seeking to clarify the situation, Mayers, who retired at the end of September last year, said while it was a fact that the Liaison Office could not place any workers in US hotels since 2010, the Auditor General was aware of it and “the information was contained in a comprehensive report to the Ministry of Labour”.
“In 2009, the hotel workers and their employers shared the cost of travel to the USA, but in 2010, the US Department of Labour changed the regulations pertaining to foreign workers and made it mandatory for employers to bear the total cost of transportation,” said Mayers.
“As a result of that decision, employers opted to hire Jamaican workers rather than Barbadian workers since our workers would cost them approximately twice as much. There was no way that Barbados could compete under those conditions unless the playing field was leveled,” he explained.
The former official suggested that more attention should also be placed on the preparation of candidates for the various tourism-related programmes, pointing out that there was often an issue with their attire and deportment.
“They dress as if they were still at home and they seem not to care about their appearance. They also speak as if Bajan is a language and a number of them do not get selected because the recruiters have no idea what they are saying,” said Mayers, adding that some of them wore tattoos on “unsuitable parts of their bodies” while others wore “unkempt dreadlocks”.
“I wish that Barbadians on the whole would adopt a more positive attitude. In my opinion, the state of affairs in Barbados will remain the same unless attitudes change. We must stop pulling each other down and make an effort to shed the ‘crabs in a barrel’ mentality. Instead of pulling down each other, we should re-direct that energy to helping the less fortunate,” added Mayers.
In his 2014 report, Auditor General Leigh Trotman also raised concern about the significant sums Government was spending on the programme without any obvious returns. He called on the Ministry of Labour to conduct an assessment of the programme, which carries an annual budget of just over US$308,000, to see how it could be improved or, alternatively, whether it should be discontinued.
However, Mayers said while that amount “may have been allocated to the Liaison Office, the actual amount expended was less than half that figure”.
“There is no one who could identify areas of over-spending at the Liaison Office because we were advised to maintain control of our expenses and we followed those instructions,” said Mayers, who was also liaison officer from 2001 to 2004.
“We spend money each month, then we submit our invoices to the Ministry of Labour and then auditors take a look at what we send there and when it is approved, we get the money sent to us. So it is not to say that they send $308,000 to us,” explained Mayers.
“There was no mention of the fact that since we could not place workers in the hotels in the US, we have been successful in obtaining employment on the cruise lines for Barbadians.”
“To this end, the National Employment Bureau is in the process of preparing 27 candidates for employment on ships in the fleet of Norwegian Cruise Line. This programme will be the source of funds for families of these candidates and will also provide Barbados with additional foreign currency,” said Mayers.
And stating that he expected things to go well for that programme, Mayers said as far as an assessment of the hotel programme was concerned, “I can’t tell them what to do, but they know that the office is working. They know that people are being hired and they know that recruiters go down to Barbados”.
Also see: From the Auditor General’s Report 2