A New Season is upon us and I start this week by giving each one of you permission to do what feels right and is gratifying to your current place and positioning. It is the season for some people to move to become more accountable in their habits and choices. For others, it is a season to maintain the gains made and still for others, it is a season to rest.
We have been taught to believe that success in these opening days of a new season must always look like something to change or be readjusted, but in these days of stressful jobs and high non communicable disease numbers, success can also be finding more peace and downtime. What is the right focus for a person is a completely individual journey and I hope as you negotiate, your right fit comes without too much consternation.
Also, at the start of a new season, we can ponder ourselves in our collective. There is a renewed energy and commitment to the idea that is Barbados blowing about at the beginning of this season. Ideas are good and necessary for progress – and yet without rationalization and operationalization, ideas are just that. We have to spend some time in Barbados shoring up ideas and processes.
Let me explain what I’m thinking about using the work permit requirement in Barbados. I think when work permits were envisaged they served to keep jobs and mobility protected for Barbadian citizens. That was the idea behind a specific requirement. It is obvious that somewhere between the idea and the rationalization, something has gone horribly wrong.
The work permit process seems to have become just another piece of bureaucracy. And from the jobs advertised for permission for work permits, it is clear that the rationalization has been completely divorced from the idea. Nobody can persuade me that in a time when UWI is putting out so many graduates, both at undergraduate and graduate level – people specializing in both management and languages, cultural studies and international business – that every time we need a manager a work permit appears in the paper.
Further, we have signed and ratified the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which affords free movement to member states. Therefore, for the idea behind the protection of jobs to be maintained, would the idea not have to be expanded to consider protections for other tiers of people? If UWI, Cave Hill cannot provide a manager for a business in Barbados, should not the next round of advertising for that job be done regionally before fully opening up the vacancy to the international market?
Honestly, if the idea of a work permit is no longer necessary or desirable, I think we should perhaps look at removing it altogether. It is frankly, offensive and insulting sometimes to see what are advertised as vacancies that cannot be filled in Barbados. Left unchecked, the work permit process may even be working to support reverse discrimination and deprivation in Barbados. I once had a cordial conversation with a group of friends who were in top tier positions in various industries in Barbados.
I sat and listened to them profile people based on hairstyle, women based on other outward features and then men by their addresses. When the conversation rested on locks in particular, I used the opportunity to ask if I would not be hired due to my locks. Of course, the response came that my locks were ‘different’ so I may still be considered but he honestly would tell me I would not be the first choice. I know there to be no real correlation between this type of profiling and the strange work permit requests I see advertised in the local media, but I have come to the belief that there ‘simply must be more in the mortar than the pestle.’
If businesses in Barbados have worked out that the process to get work permits is so loose that all it takes is to say X cannot be found as a means to get not just X, but X in a particular shade or race, with a particular type of hair, address and nationality, then work permits are aiding and abetting more than remedying. This example is one that readily came to mind as I pondered disconnects between ideas and rationalization and operationalization that we should pay attention to this season.
It is by no means the only one. We have heard it said in many ways and by many people that we must do things differently in Barbados going forward. A new Government is here, a new year… the stage is set and all that’s left to do is produce!
(Marsha Hinds is public relations officer of the National Organization of Women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)