Saint Lucia to toughen up on work permits

By Samuel Sukhnandan, Staff Journalist

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The government plans to give serious consideration to applying tougher requirements for work permit applications, to provide maximum opportunity for job vacancies to be filled from within Saint Lucia.

Labour Minister Stephenson King made this disclosure during an appearance on News Maker Live on Tuesday, stating that there are many foreign nationals who continue to apply for unskilled and sometimes semi-skilled jobs that could be performed by locals.

The minister said in many instances locals are being denied the opportunity to gain employment.

King said, “In some instances there are Saint Lucians who are applying for work permits for Jamaicans and Guyanese to work for them as domestic workers. And I ask myself the question, can’t they find people in Saint Lucia?… And I wont tell you sometime what they state that they are offering those people.”

While the staff at the Department of Labour main duties are to process work permit applications, King highlighted the need for persons to do further checks and balances, to ensure that these permits are granted under proper circumstances and there is no exploitation.

The minister said given this loophole, he would therefore recommend a more thorough review of the application process for work permits, where the applicants will have to appear before a panel at the Ministry of Labour, who will then scrutinize the application and determine whether the permit should be granted.

“But it goes back to the point that I have been making to my staff at the ministry, which is, the instrument of work permits must be a tool which drive our programmes in the country to be able to build capacity in our workforce,” he explained.

It therefore means that the ministry should be able to report when there is an increase for a certain category of workers, so that the government could create special programmes to build a workforce to meet the demands.

“Work permit is a matter that cannot only be seen as a revenue generating issue, but must also be seen as…how do you measure your success with the work programme to reduce the number of applications.”

King noted that there are many Indian nationals who have been granted work permits, and not only have they adapted quickly, but in some cases they possess strong work ethics.

“Some of the problems that we encounter with our people is that of ethics, discipline, a good personality, communication skills etc. And these are the things as we look at our education system, that we must begin to question. Are we really preparing our people for the world of work or are we preparing our people to succeed an exam?”

Callers to the programme urged the minister to deal with the issue with some urgency and even recommended that the government impose higher fees for work permits being granted to foreign unskilled workers, especially when there is a workforce here for that.

Currently, Caribbean Commonwealth nationals pay EC$2,000, other Commonwealth nationals EC$7,500, and other non-nationals EC$7,500 each for annual work permits.

Unskilled persons under these categories pay EC$200 for every 12 months.

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9 comments

  1. All I'm saying this world own everybody a living it doesn't matter which country you come from in my country you could go and you could have a job so I don't understand why some people saying that the own cant get job . Some people do not want to work so I don't know why Mr King is saying that it will be hard to get a workers permit other country you go you have the workers permit once you its a
    Caricom country everybody deserves a break a fair chance to work and to achieve what they want it's not about what race or what country we from but this world own each and everyone of us a living we have to work to survive and whenever we have we don't take it with us again whatever we have we not going to take it we could accomplish the fancy things in life nothing we take with us and what I'm saying we should appreciate each other you should love each other and give everybody a chance in this life is not about where we come from but in the end of the day where we are going so I don't think it's right to do that on the Works permit I don't think it is right give everybody a fair chance in life. Let us love each other its not about our country we are all one body. Let love overcome it all. Gn guys

    (0)(0)
  2. What is the nationality of the PM's maid?

    (2)(2)
  3. Hotels hire foreign spa managers, technicians, chefs, maintenance managers, accountants, gym instructors and so on. St. Lucia has highly qualified and trained individuals who are forced to emigrate to get these very same jobs. Something is very wrong. At times you would think it's actually overt racism. Bravo Minister. Though don't focus on the few Chinese and Indians because they are small fry in the scheme of things. Instead look at the foreigners employed in tourism some of whom are defrauding inland Revenue and NIC. St. Lucians would never get this favourable treatment in the UK and the US, so why are their nationals taking jobs from highly qualified St. Lucians. The really sad thing is that St. Lucians end up doing all the expatriates work for them anyway.

    (20)(2)
  4. Every body needs a job to care for their families, but it's about time they change things in St. Lucia. Locals can't get jobs but foreigners gets it all, big or small.

    (13)(1)
  5. Why should CARICOM nationals apply or even pay for work permits when csme suppose to have taken care of that.

    (5)(5)
  6. This work permit matter has always been a joke. It was about time that this issue was close consideration of. My concern is not about the permit fees but rather about the number of none nationals that work here without work permits. Soufriere is a haven for those white characters, from architects to slice pizza vendors. This goes on in presence of immigration personnel. When it comes to our caribbean brothers and sisters, they are treated in the most disgusting way at the hands of the police. I quite agree that the work permit fees for foreign professionals should be tripled, because with their hefty salaries the can more than afford it.

    (17)(2)
  7. I didn't see Mr King's interview, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that this report may not have accurately conveyed his sentiments.

    But it seems to me that in the Caribbean, whenever politicians talk about clamping down on "foreigners" working in their countries, it's really fellow CARICOM nationals they are referring to. They never seem concerned about the non-Caribbean nationals, who may or may not have work permits.

    I would hope Mr King can resist the temptation to fall into that trap.

    (9)(3)
  8. why should anyone apply as a skilled person and pay EC 7500,- annual when he can apply as unskilled and pay only EC 200.- annual ?

    (17)(2)

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