STATEMENT FOR THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY BY THE DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES AND LABOUR
DR. THE HONOURABLE KEDRICK D. PICKERING
JULY 18TH 2018
Madame Speaker, as we rebuild our economy, the Department of Labour continues to play its role in our rebuilding efforts. Shortly after the devastating hurricanes of last September, a Skilled Workers Programme was implemented to ensure that the necessary labour was able to enter the Territory in a timely manner. Employers have taken full advantage of this policy and to emphasize this point, a total of one thousand, seven hundred and ten (1,710) skilled workers have entered the Territory, the majority of which are in the construction industry.
Madame Speaker, this policy ran in tandem with a partial assessment of the labour market which required businesses to submit information to the Department of Labour on the status of their businesses and staff changes. In addition, the department collaborated with the Ministry of Education and the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College to provide opportunities for unemployed or underemployed persons to become part of the skilled labour force by registering them to enroll in courses in the construction and marine industries on Tortola and Virgin Gorda as a means of assisting in the Territory’s recovery efforts.
Madame Speaker, the department received assistance from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the hiring of a labour market consultant to look into labour market issues that came about as a result of the hurricanes. The consultant met with several stakeholders during his visits to the Territory. The overall purpose of this exercise was to establish a framework to enhance the effectiveness of the employment law in the Territory with a view to reasserting the rights of individuals as well as to aligning local standards with international best practices.
Madame Speaker, the consultant was asked to identify specific regulatory measures that will help to improve the functionality of the department. He identified a number of issues as the current Labour Code does not work in a modern BVI and needs to be modified moving forward. For example, the Labour Code, 2010 does not outline the steps to be taken during natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods. Additionally, it does not make provision for flexibility within the labour market, i.e. enabling employees to work for another employer when their primary employer suffers temporary or permanent shutdown.
Madame Speaker, as the rebuilding efforts continues, the Ministry in tandem with the Department of Labour will ensure that the supply of labour is commensurate with the level of development in all sectors of the economy while being sensitive and responsive to the needs of the labour market. For example, we are working diligently to ensure the application process in computerized as well as exploring the use of technology that will allow photos to be uploaded to the work permit card doing away with individuals having to come to the department to have this done. Additionally, we are currently making provisions for senior executives’ work permits to be processed at the Ministry with a view to a quicker turnaround as well as doing away with the need to physically visit the Ministry, especially during the renewal process. The Ministry and the Department of Labour, will continue to do our part as we work together to rebuild smarter, greener and better!