One outspoken union leader is crying shame on companies that continue to apply for work permits to fill positions that he believes could be easily filled from the local talent pool, calling it nothing but a disgrace.
However, one human resources specialist says the situation is “two-fold” and in some cases warrant it, specifically if the specialist requirements for the roles are not satisfied by the applicants.
The issue came to the fore again after one North American club-style retailer, Cost U Less, advertised recently that it had received “no suitable responses” to its advertisement for the position of store manager.
“It is our intention to submit an application for a non-national to fill the position,” it went on to say, adding that anyone who objected to the granting of a work permit should respond to the Chief Immigration Officer by October 31, 2019.
Stating that it was also a common practice in the tourism sector, General Secretary of the Unity Workers’ Union (UWU) Senator Caswell Franklyn described the move as “nonsense”, while dismissing the notion that no suitable candidate could be found locally.
“You are not running a hospital or a specialist care institution, it is a supermarket where you are buying and selling. Barbados has been buying and selling since inception,” Franklyn argued.
“What has happened, these people invest in Barbados . . . and they believe that they can bring in their friends and families, some of whom are not even skilled themselves. I have one case in particular on the south coast where they wanted a general manager and they advertised for one and applied for a work permit and the immigration department said no. The former government got persuaded and gave them a concession so they would give them for three years but train somebody for that time. Coming up to the three years they fired the understudy so then they could apply again because they don’t have any understudy. It is a scam and we fall for it for whatever reason I don’t know,” he said.
Franklyn told Barbados TODAY the national employment policy was flawed and needed tightening up.
Companies are required to advertise a position locally and should they not find a suitably qualified individual to fill the post, the company then applies for a work permit so that they could hire someone from overseas.
However, Franklyn said “It is not about finding skills it is about employing their unemployable relatives who can’t find jobs overseas.”
“That is what is happening especially in the tourism industry. A few Bajans get managerial jobs but at these hotels more so than anybody else, Bajans can only get to a certain level no matter what skills they have,” said Franklyn.
However, President of the Human Resources Management Association of Barbados (HRMAB) Brittany Brathwaite told Barbados TODAY that in some cases there was merit to some companies having to go outside to seek talent for some positions.
“Every time we see that there are multiple variables that go into that consideration,” said Brathwaite.
She said in cases where it was a genuine need for talent that could not be found on island, it meant that the country should be “building, grooming and refining talent” that businesses need.
“So it may be a store manager on the surface, but there may be some refined elements of that that businesses probably can’t get here. In the same vein, there may be elements that can be, and the business chooses to use talent from the outside,” said Brathwaite.
“One of the driving forces behind a lot of those ads that we see in the paper and a lot of the rebuttal that you get particularly from foreign companies is, yes, you have lots of people who have been store managers, but have you had lots of people who have been store managers as well as dealing with trade in international markets . . . clearing containers from the Port, manage the retail and the stock and the basic level things?” she asked.
The HR and industrial relations practitioner said it was critical that the island focus on developing talents that businesses required.
“So I would say it is a two-fold thing. The business may, in some instances, require things that our talent and our human resources development market has not yet reached and we have to be focused there. So if we put all of our energy into saying, ‘there are all of these ads coming out, people need to stop’, that can’t quite be the answer. The answer has to be what is the root of the issue?” said Brathwaite.
“At the end of the day we have to be realistic, companies still have the control over their recruitment. So that has to be a fact that we face,” she further explained.
Efforts to reach the Minister of Labour Colin Jordan and Chief Immigration Officer Wayne Marshall on the matter were unsuccessful.
However, Brathwaite told Barbados TODAY she was aware the current administration was keen on preparing the local human resources talent pool for the jobs that businesses required.
“So the core of this is a much bigger conversation. I think it is something the Government through the Ministry of Labour is assiduously working on, that is looking at the way we develop our people, who are our only resources in Barbados, from the ground up,” she said.