MLA calls for ‘release letter’ opinion to be published

| 10/01/2016 | 25 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Franz Manderson in the Legislative Assembly 20 Nov 2015

(CNS): The legal opinion over whether or not a release letter is required for a work permit holder to move from one job to another should be published, according to North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, as the issue continues to cause concern among both politicians and the business community. During November’s parliamentary meeting MLAs heard that some work permits were being granted for foreign employees who had moved from another employee without a release letter, despite the requirement in immigration law to do so.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson had said he would investigate the issue because there appeared to be a reinterpretation of the law by the immigration boards, allowing employees on permits to move jobs without the agreement of their original employers, which he said was not the intention of the immigration law.

Miller is calling on the government to release the new advice it is seeking from the attorney general regarding the law as well as the previous legal opinion that is understood to have led to the granting of new permits without release letters.

“I want to see it published because if they are not going to address this problem, I will bring a motion to deal with the issue,” Miller told CNS, noting that permit holders are walking out of jobs held on one permit and into another because people now believe that a letter of release is no longer a requirement. He said the deputy governor told the LA that he had asked the chief officer in the home affairs ministry to get an opinion from the attorney general and there had been enough time for that to have happened.

Manderson told CNS last week that he is still waiting for that opinion, which he expected to receive shortly. However, while the contents would probably be made public, it was unlikely that the advice would be published in its entirety, he said.

“I cannot commit to releasing the opinion, but given the publicity around this matter, I am sure that the ministry of home affairs will want to make public the contents of the opinion so that everyone can be so informed,” he said, pointing out that it is not usual for any legal opinion to be released.

The deputy governor said that an earlier opinion on the matter had been released by the Attorney General’s Chambers but he could not confirm if this was what had triggered any new approach by the boards. He said the issue was a “lack of a consistent approach to the interpretation of section 50”, the part of the immigration law that deals with releasing employees before they can take up a new position.

During the debate in the LA in November (see video below) Manderson explained (1:37:30) that non-national workers were never intended to have the same freedom of movement in the local job market as Caymanians and that, as in most countries, overseas workers should be regulated. Section 50 was there to control job-hopping permit holders but also to allow for the release of foreign workers who were being victimised by employers, not being paid or mistreated in some other way, or when employers give permission.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Time limits are good. Work permits are bad. They destroy Cayman businesses and your real estate market. You cant fix stupid yet you keep trying, the root of all evil is the permit system Charge for permits but allow unlimited amounts with no conditions except they leave after 7 years and things will promptly change for the better

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think there is some potential issue on Human Rights here-as long as I am qualified to get a work permit and not taking a job from a Caymanian, why should any employer be able to hold that letter over my head? I will be employed for my skills, so why should it restrict the job market if I am not taking a Caymanians job? The whole idea that the employer can hold a gun to my head is against any sense of decency or morality I can think of. And there are increasing cases of bullying going on…there will be court cases if this is enforced, I am sure of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Except that Caymanians are being told they are overqualified for some jobs while expats only declare what they need for a job or do they get these high qualifications overnight at fosters?

    • Calling an employer-employee relationship “indentured service” (when the employee is on a Work Permit) is 100% accurate; I have been using that term for many years now. A Permit is issued in the name of the employer, remember, and another way of saying that is that the employer OWNS the indenture – and thereby the right to do what he wants with the employee. Technically, he can’t sell an employee whose WP he holds, but he can often rent him or her out to another. I don’t think there is any secret about the situation. Domestic servants have always been the most exploited of all Cayman’s migrants; there’s no secret about that shameful situation, either.

  3. JTB says:

    Why don’t we call the work permit / release letter system what it actually is?

    Indentured service.

    If a human being can be effectively owned by their employer, so they have no freedom of employment (within the law) then that is not an employment relationship as I understand the term.

    Of course, there are those who do not really consider expats to be human beings at all, and certainly don’t believe in that foreign concept called human rights,

  4. Anonymous says:

    Here’s an idea – instead of focusing on an opinion from the Attorney General, why not simply amend the immigration law to make it clearer. The current law is obviously ambigiously drafted and even if the AG reverses his original opinion, there is no guarantee that his interpretation of the law was or now will be correct. Let’s face it, some of the decisions made by the AG’s office in recent years have been questionnable at best.

    Why doesn’t Ezzard focus his efforts on getting the government to amend the law to make it clear that in normal circumstances it’s not possible to change jobs with out a release, unless certain (clearly described) circumstances exist. Job done.

    In any case, this isn’t an issue that should be causing major concern. Remember that even if a person can’t be prevented from changing jobs by his former employer, he or she still has to go through the normal work permit approval process with a new employer. And if that permit is granted in spite of there being qualified Caymanian applicants or the process is otherwised abused, that’s the real problem that should be addressed. It’s not like it’s detrimental to Caymanians to allow people to switch jobs when it may not be working out or even worse where they are in an abusive situation. The person should only be in the job in the first place if there is no qualified Caymanian applicant.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you followed this matter you would know that Ezzard in his private members motion that spurred this debate also asked the Government to amend the Immigration law if necessary.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What is the problem with someone changing jobs so long as he has to apply for a new work permit. I do see a problem with the requirement for a consent letter from the previous employer as this surely leads to abuse by the employer.

  6. Anonymous says:

    And meanwhile Alden cannot understand that as the number of work permit holders rise, so does the number of unemployed Caymanians.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the principle behind Alden’s rationale is called leggenomics. It seems to have favor across major party lines and to require ever accelerating unbridled growth including in numbers of foreign nationals doing jobs that Caymanians may be available for, because at least Caymanians will get employed by them. If they are not, the argument seems to be shifting to contend that any resulting displacement of locals in the economy is a worthwhile and temporary sacrifice because in less than a decade almost all the foreign nationals will count as locals too, and so the employment of local persons, given time, will be dramatically greater, and the numbers of work permits can then relatively decrease.

      When we run out of room we can just fill in North Sound. It could be one gated canal front community. Can you imagine what we could sell that real-estate for? Hell, I’ll front for the Chinese and develop a new Island. They are good at that stuff.

    • Anonymous says:

      While all the time Ezzard and you fail to understand that the economy is not a zero sum game.

  7. Sharkey says:

    I think that it’s wrong for the employer to transfer one’s work permit to a other employer by just a letter, there should be no stipulations in the law to even make you the employer think that you can do that . The control , and granting , and transfer , of a work permit should only be handled by the Immigration Department. Then could a employer get work permit for a cook ,then transfer that work permit to a other employer for him or her to be a manager.

    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      The job description cannot change, and its not the employer that transfers the permit. The new employer seeks a transfer, and the existing one consents by letter (or not, in which case the permit does not transfer). And the new employer would have to have advertised the position as well. All that is happening is the new employer gets the benefit of the existing permit rather than getting a completely new one (which of course would reset the clock on the employees permit, meaning they could stay longer) Since the job type and the duration of the permit does not change, there is arguably no issue for immigration – expat stays as long as before, same job type. The section is only there to allow the existing employer to veto the employee moving to a new job so to protect the employer against having incurred all the cost of the relocation and work permit and not get the benefit of the employees time on island. The employer can of course make his consent subject to recovering some of that cost.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Can we see the opinion that said the cabinet status grants were lawful?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wow, pigs do fly! I actually agreed with Ezzard for the first time. When I was on a WP 20 years ago and working for a law firm, there was no way you could leave for another firm without a release letter and it was virtually certain that you would never receive one from your current firm.

    • Anonymous says:

      So they could treat you like crap. Bullying is rife and some firms have a far worse reputation than others. Those firms tend to use the ” we won’t give you a release letter” ploy.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Human’s nature (well most of us) is to advance ourselves. Maybe that’s why the whole work permit thing and importing foreign workers is a mess.
    It’s one thing to dream up some law where you hire me and want me to teach someone ( who may not even really want to work) to take my job and quite another for me to be good at what I do and train someone and then lose my job….and my home, and maybe my friends and pets, and then relocate (again) and find another job.
    WOW! I wonder why it doesn’t work.
    Maybe when “Caymanians built this country” you built it wrong. Just sayn

  11. Anonymous says:

    Ezzard, that’s nothing. You should ask to see the miraculous opinion that says becoming a partner is not a promotion under section 51.

    • Anonymous says:

      Anonymous I have see this opinion but would be grateful if you placed it on my truck windshield _ bright red Plate number Q0005.

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