Work permits, traffic, opportunities for Caymanians kick-off focus group discussions
President Nelson Dilbert and Council members kicked off a series of focus groups recently. A food retailer, a tourist attraction and an IT company were among the businesses who took part in the first sessions. Feedback from the sessions will help to shape the Council’s advocacy agenda.
Delays in dealing with government departments when processing paperwork came pretty near the top of the list of worries, even though many had noticed an improvement in the last few months. Frustrations included delays faced in promoting someone on a work permit, especially when no suitable Caymanian could easily be found. There was a feeling that too much red tape – interference in the way businesses were being run – was holding back efficiency. “We have to move our businesses forward, we cannot wait for them,” one participant commented.
There was discussion about level playing fields: Did the 60/40 ownership rule apply to big businesses who set up several different offshoots under one umbrella? Didn’t each of them need a separate Trade & Business License category? Were they being fair to smaller businesses?
Education programmes were needed to help school children transition to a workplace mindset: Chamber programmes like Junior Achievement were great for older kids, but something was needed for the younger ones too. Too many children were leaving school with no idea what a work environment was all about.
The high cost of living meant that the minimum wage should be raised, but by how much? There was no real consensus, but some participants thought the ‘right’ figure was between about nine and ten dollars. But if it went too high, then many businesses would be forced to put up their prices, leading to wages chasing prices in an upward spiral.
How could low-paid workers afford accommodation without sharing? And what about transportation? The Government’s new rule limiting the importation of cars older than seven years was OK if you could afford an expensive new car, but what if you couldn’t? It would surely mean difficulties for poorer people who couldn’t afford new cars, especially given that public transportation here was so unreliable.
Everyone agreed that the Chamber’s training programmes for workforce development were first-class: “When we need training this is the first place we look,” they said, while offering many helpful suggestions for more, and different classes. Some said they felt that some basic computer literacy classes were needed.
The Chamber is planning to conduct additional focus groups in the months ahead. If you’d like to participate contact CEO Wil Pineau, at 743-9122 or at firstname.lastname@example.org