Finance firms challenge FOI release

| 12/02/2015 | 18 Comments

(CNS): Four local private sector financial services firms have taken legal action to challenge the release of information by the immigration department in response to what is understood to be a number of freedom of information requests relating to work-permits held by local companies. Maples Finance, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Butterfield have secured a Grand Court injunction to prevent further circulation and publication of a catalogue of documents from the department as they await a judicial review.

They claim the release reveals personal information about their staff and should never have been released under the freedom of information law.

There are currently two injunctions in place signed by the chief justice aimed at preventing any further publication of the documents. One is aimed at a member of the public who is understood to have made an FOI request relating to work permit information and posted the documents on Facebook. The other is aimed at the immigration department’s information manager to preventing her from releasing documents that were given to the The Cayman Compass (under another FOI request) to anyone else until the court has heard the challenge from the finance companies.

The extent of the documentation referred to is not clear because over the last few weeks a significant amount of information regarding work permits has been released to other media houses, as well as the daily paper, and to several members of the public, including a CNS reader who received documents listing the top ten firms holding the largest number of permits.

But the four financial entities and a number of employees on work permits are now concerned about the collection of spreadsheets that has been released that lists local firms, the number of permits they hold and for what type of jobs, as well as the nationalities of those on permits in the firms and the salaries they are being paid.

Although it is understood that no names have been released in the documents, the firms have suggested that the amount of information released would allow people to identify some of the individual foreign nationals holding the permits and therefore deduce how much they are earning.

CNS contacted the immigration department but the acting chief immigration officer said he was unable to comment on the situation as a result of the legal action.

The issue of increasing work permit numbers in the face of continuing unemployment among locals has raised concerns in the community and many job-seekers believe permits are being granted without due consideration to parts of the immigration and labour laws. The spreadsheets are understood to reinforce some of the common concerns about permits, in particular the lack of diversity in the workforces.

Speaking recently about the rise in permits numbers, the premier denied that it necessarily means each new permit is a job that did not go to a local worker. In his State of the Nation address last week at Fidelity’s CEO conference, Alden McLaughlin said an increase in work permits was an indication that the economy was rebounding and that employers were hiring.

“There is a view in some quarters, however, that every time you grant a work permit it means a Caymanian did not get that job. But this is not necessarily the case. In many cases the grant of a work permit for a managerial or professional position means a business is growing and actually creates additional jobs for administrative, secretarial or support staff,” he said.

McLaughlin said unemployment was one number that he was happy to see declining and indicated that it was expected to be at 5.9 per cent at the end of this fiscal year in June and down to 4.9% in the next.

“All data indicate that unemployment is falling and is projected to continue to fall over the next few years as projects come on stream and as we get more and more people into jobs,” he said. “Unemployment is still not where we want it to be and we are working hard to diversify the economy further and help create new jobs.”

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Category: Jobs, Local News

Comments (18)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Once documents are given to government they can becomes public documents. As such the public can view them. However, when it comes to personal info, this should remain discreet-Protection Act, but the statistic released should show categories in remuneration continuum, national and if not gender and age.

    This info can be given to the media and or an individual. What you all believe we live in uncivilized society?

    This is a norm in any country.

  2. Mia says:

    FYI Public Accounting a specialized skill set that requires a a Masters Degree in order to qualify for the CPA exam or a Canadian/ EU designation. It is also a transient work environment and in Cayman where there are two busy seasons it requires bringing in workers on a frequent basis. Its the same in most Caribbean countries. There are not enough local CPA’s CA’s ACCA’s in Cayman to meet the demand for Deloitte, KPMG or E&Y.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps the FOI manager at Immigration acted lawfully ? I mean really this is now a matter before the courts and as rightly pointed out by a commentator in this section previous interpretation of the act allowed for civil servants salary to be released. So, thankfully we will soon have some direction on this matter and clarity in the law where this is concerned.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Oh how the tune changes when the foot is on the other shoe! Salaries are not “personal information” when it comes to senior management employees of Government, Statutory Authorities and Government Companies….these have been FOI’d many times and released as requested. I guess these folks have no choice.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Reading some of the comments here it is quite staggering the ignorance and naivety in regard to basic data protection. No individual has the right to know what a private individual employed by a private company earns as a salary. Within those companies, this information is restricted to only those who need to know, such as HR and finance teams. It beggars belief that anyone can think that it is reasonable to release this sort of information.

    • Anonymous says:

      But when they advertisement is placed in the newspaper which is a Immigration requirement if you are seeking a work permit applicant, then the information of salary, benefits and job duties are all outlined. What does it take for an employee or a general public person to ascertain from this informiaton who got the job and the range of salary they are making. So where is the secrecy here?

  6. Anonymous says:

    WOW what do they have to hide.

    • Anonymous says:

      if you read the article you can see what, individuals personal details and salaries. while this is cayman and everyone loves to be in everyone elses business, think if it was your neighbours seeing what you earn

  7. guest says:

    I thought that the immigration laws required the salary to be advertised in the newspaper when the permits are up for renewal/initial grant? It used to have to be a band of about $10k with a min/max number, pretty sure you can figure out who’s paid what from that info…mind you not all adverts contain a salary band so not sure if that’s still a requirement. Not that I care.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Embarrassment is not grounds for exemption from FOI. Just because the companies involved don’t like to have their dirty laundry aired in public isn’t a good reason to block the FOI process. All this does is reflect badly on Maples Finance, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Butterfield.

    • guest says:

      I don’t think it was embarrassment that’s prompted this, I think it was a breach of the FOI regulations, I like what the FOI office do but you can’t go around releasing personal information if the law says otherwise,

      • Anonymous says:

        The information was released by immigration not the foi office

        • Anonymous says:

          If Immigration did the job they were hired to do they would not find time to get into other peoples business. I have never encountered a less responsible bunch in all my life and I have been here awhile

        • 1111guest says:

          Thanks for the clarification on the FOI office, I should have had a read on the process before firing! At least I now know who does what…

    • Anonymous says:

      Please feel free to post a photocopy of your paycheque up on the internet then if it’s really no big deal.

    • Anonymous says:

      Anonymous says:
      12/02/2015 at 1:50 pm

      It’s not a case of ‘having their dirty laundry aired in public’ – no company wants its members of staff or other firms employees to know what they are paying individuals, it’s commercial common sense. – This story is about the Immigration Dept releasing information that it shouldn’t have released. – However it’s difficult to recognise that when we don’t yet have a data protection policy – how behind are we?

      • Anonymous says:

        But there are valid exemptions relating to personal information. Guess the FOI officer at Immigration doesn’t understand them and is that surprising? This is, and has been for years, easily the most inefficient and corrupt department in CIG.

    • Mia says:

      It has nothing to do with embarrassment, it has to do with protecting the rights of your employees to not have their business all over the place.

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