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OUTRAGE OVER BEACHES HIRING 150 J`CANS

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The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police launched its social media initiative where, in additional to 911 and its regular numbers, it will be banking on the public to give them information through Facebook and Twitter. The Police Social Media Network was launched on Wednesday, April 18, at the Provo Golf Club in Grace Bay. Telecoms company LIME was on hand to donate two Galaxy Tablets to assist the police in their effort. The tablets can be doubled as internet browsing devices as well as phones. In photo, Drexwell Seymour (centre), Country Manager for LIME TCI and Dellarece Hall (second left), Head of Corporate Sales for LIME TCI, present the Galaxy Tablets to Constable Kevin Clarke and Commissioner of Police Colin Farquar respectively. Looking on at right is Lorenzo Smith from LIME’s engineering department. The Facebook address for the police is: www.facebook.com/rtcipf, while the twitter account is: @royaltcipolice.
By Vivian Tyson

There is widespread outrage in the Turks and Caicos Islands over news that Chairman for the Sandals/Beaches chain of hotels Gordon ‘Butch Stewart’ plans to recruit 150 more Jamaicans to take up positions at Beaches Resort and Spa on Providenciales, bringing the total number of Jamaicans there to 500.
The announcement was made in the form of an article in the Stewart-controlled Jamaica Observer Newspaper on Thursday, April 19, and came from the Jamaican-based chain of hotels at a time when more than 400 persons were axed from the TCI Government and were on the job hunt.
The article quoted Human Resources Director Monique McClean-Vaughn as saying that when the additional 150 are recruited later, it will bring the number of Jamaicans working at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resorts to 503.
She said a team of eight recruiters from the TCI will arrive in Jamaica this April 29 to begin four days of interviews which they hope will culminate in the first batch of 100 persons arriving at Beaches Turks and Caicos within the next six to eight weeks.
The Jamaicans will fill vacancies as room technicians in the engineering department; kitchen line cooks; concierge agent; butlers; security officers; bartenders in the pool and beach areas; waiters and waitresses in the buffet and A-La-Carte restaurants; room attendants and housemen.
News of the pending hirings has angered locals, some of whom plan to stage protests outside Beaches.
A statement from the Ministry of Border Control said: “For the last year, the Ministry of Border Control and Labour has been working closely with Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort regarding their hiring policies. Beaches Resort management have agreed to abide by the procedures approved by the Labour Commissioner, and in line with the Immigration Ordinance, i.e. seeking persons from the unemployment register in the Labour Department, followed by local advertising and then as a final option seeking persons through overseas advertising.”
It added: “The Ministry was therefore surprised by a recent article in the Jamaican Observer which suggested that Beaches would be hiring significant numbers of Jamaican staff to bring to the Turks and Caicos Islands. If true, this would not be in line with recent discussions between the Ministry and Beaches Resort, as Beaches Resort has never indicated that there is such a major staff shortage which cannot be met from within the Turks and Caicos Islands. Beaches resort management have also, along with the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, been working with the Ministry to identify jobs for people affected by the TCIG voluntary severance programme, in a process which is still going on.”
The Ministry said it is seeking urgent communication from Beaches Resort management to confirm that the agreed procedures continue to be followed.
“The law remains that priority in employment should be given to Turks and Caicos Islanders. The Ministry has never been averse to the employment of foreign nationals to meet essential business needs, in the interests of the Turks and Caicos Islands, however, that process must be in line with the law of the land, and the systems currently in practice,” the statement added.
Among the 353 Jamaicans already in the TCI are several senior executives who have been serving at the resort for several years.
According to the Observer, Stewart said he was especially pleased that as a spinoff, his resorts in Jamaica would have to recruit more staff to replace those who were successful in their application for Beaches TCI.
"I am at my happiest when we are in a position to provide jobs for Jamaicans who deserve to have employment so that they can take care of themselves and their families," Stewart said, while expressing satisfaction with the quality of work done by Jamaicans who work in his resorts across the Caribbean.
McClean said the Jamaicans were eagerly awaited at Beaches TCI which has been running a room occupancy rate upwards of 95 per cent for the past nine months. Guest capacity is 2,300.
"We are basically looking for persons with at least two years of experience who will be able to deliver the luxury-included experience that Beaches proudly offers," she added.
McClean said the resort had always had a diverse staff and in the near future would be introducing an exchange programme in TCI, to be linked to the Sandals Corporate University launched recently.
The resort currently has 1,274 employees, representing 30 nationalities, with a ratio of 2:1 per room. The hotel's international staff is drawn from the Turks and Caicos Islands, Caricom and Central and South America, Canada, USA and Europe.
But the reports triggered angerd not only among concerned Belongers but also many of their Jamaican counterparts living here, who felt that Stewart’s intention bordered on insensitivity, owing to current job situation, plus the immigration and labour impact it could have on Jamaicans already living here.
At press time, Immigration officials were reportedly locked in a meeting mainly to figure out what could have actually led Stewart to speak with such assurance, and what can be done to allow locals to fill the majority of the slots that was now known to be available at the resort.
When contacted, Permanent Secretary for Border Control and Labour, Clara Gardiner, said that her ministry was unaware of Stewart’s pronouncement before The SUN contacted her, but she would be using all resources available to her to get to the bottom of the situation.
“We will investigate to see how he came to make this announcement with such assurances, so when we get to the bottom of it, we would say something further on it,” she said, adding that the ministry was hoping to issue a statement to inform the public that it was aware of the issue and had launched an investigation.
Head of the Providenciales Ministers Fraternal and member of the Coalition for Justice and Prosperity, Rev. Dr. Conrad Howell, said that he had already circulated the article to all its clergy members and would be investigating the matter further so as to come up with a solution to ensure that Turks and Caicos Islanders were employed in their rightful positions.
“One of the reasons I am so concerned is that a number of people in Turks and Caicos are out of work, and it goes to the increasing appearance of not wanting to hire Turk sand Caicos Islanders. I don’t know if that is the case yet, but knowing how many people are out of work here, it seemed to be the case,” Howell said.
 Howell continued: “And then there is a paragraph in the Observer that really gets to me. It reads (quoting the Jamaica Observer): ‘I am happy when we are in a position to provide jobs for Jamaicans who deserve to have employment so they can take care of themselves and their family, Steward said, while expressing satisfaction of the quality of work being done by Jamaicans who work in these resorts across the Caribbean’.
“I have no gripes with the quality of work (done by Jamaicans), but we want the same things for Turks and Caicos Islanders, when you are looking at 150 persons, is that the total amount of persons being hired? If not, what amount of Turks and Caicos Islanders that would be hired, and could you not find 10 percent/ 20 percent/ 30 percent of those persons in Turks and Caicos? And the paper said they would be coming here in six to eight weeks, could we not trained that many persons in six to eight weeks? This leaves me wondering what is the intent.”
Howell believed that the skills that Beaches intended to bring in were right here in the TCI and with little training, could become the suitable candidates. While Howell said he could not reach the Labour Department to explain why Stewart was so confident about bringing in these workers, he pointed out that a talk show host had recently announced that Beaches was given approval to bring in 150 expatriate workers.
“And so, is this that approval that he was talking about? And if it is, again, where is Government looking? There are a number of people that are not only unemployed but underemployed in the Turks and Caicos Islands. So, I am deeply concerned about this. I intend to speak with Labour, and see what Labour has to say on this, and if it is all possible, to see how much campaign we can wage to get Turks and Caicos Islanders hired. Where possible, I intend to speak with HR at the property,” Howell revealed.
For his part, Leader for the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) Derek Taylor said that all efforts should be made to ensure Turks and Caicos Islanders’ employment, insisting that where there was a job opening Turks and Caicos Islanders should be given first preference.
“Where there are Turks and Caicos Islanders that are capable or are willing to be trained, then obviously, they should be given preference. The whole matter of what happened between Immigration and Labour in coordinating this, it is one that, I hope, that has been taken into consideration that Government has just let off over 400 Turks and Caicos Islanders.
“To save any embarrassment on both sides there must be engagement on both sides because it is going to cause a whole heap of animosity, and you don’t want that. You want to have an environment where you can work together – the public and private sector – taking into consideration the state of the country,” Taylor said.
Responding to some members of the public who said that the current situation which allows for Beaches to be thinking of bringing in so many outsiders to fill vacancies at a time when there is an extreme scarcity of  jobs, was paved by his past administration, Taylor pointed out: “During our time, the initial agreement had to deal with training and what have you. But I understood that there was an expansion during the former (PNP) administration. There was an amendment to the agreement. That is what I understood; I have not seen anything (documents to that effect).
“But you would note that after 2003, and if you compare the number of Turks and Caicos Islanders that were employed at Beaches in managerial positions to what happened over the last few years under the former administration – including the court case and what have you – you would notice that something have gone wrong somewhere along the line and hence the situation that we are in.
“But there has to be a situation where management (of Beaches), Immigration and Labour should be able to work together. We reach out our hands to the region, but they have to take into consideration of what is happening on the ground in the Turks and Caicos.”
Further pointed out that since the British pride themselves on embracing New Zealand economic model, which in part trained its axed public sector employees so that they could readily find work in the private sector, Taylor urged the UK to also walk the walk and get TC Islanders effectively trained for the job market.
Efforts to reach Leader for the Progressive National Party Clayton Greene for a comment on the issue proved futile, as calls to his phone went unanswered, and he did not return a text message.
In the meantime, contender for the leadership of the Progressive National Party (PNP) Dr. Rufus Ewing is calling for any plans to fill the available spaces at Beaches Turks and Caicos should be scrapped, and Belongers made to take up those slots.
“I am delighted that the number of Tourist arrivals in Turks and Caicos is so great and the occupancy rate of Beaches is so high that there is a need to significantly increase the number of staff at Beaches Resort and Spa to meet this demand.
“If this information is indeed accurate, it would be unacceptable for there to be recruitment and employment of any work permit holders to fill this staffing deficiency at Beaches, when there is a high rate of unemployment among Turks and Caicos Islanders who may be suitably qualified.
“I am calling on the Labour Department to intervene into this situation as a matter of urgency. Efforts must be made to provide the local public with a listing of all vacant posts or soon to be created posts against which individuals are intended to be recruited.
“The Labour Department in conjunction with Immigration authorities should together play a major role in this process thus ensuring that duly qualified and able Turks and Caicos Islanders reap full benefit.  If approval has already been granted for these individuals to be recruited and employed, then this decision should be reversed and revised with immediate effect,” Ewing demanded.
 Meanwhile, Executive of the Turks and Caicos Islands Hotel and Tourists Association, Stacy Cox, said that she read the article but was unable to give a response at this time due to a number of meeting commitments.
Persons from the wider community also weighed in on the controversy. Local businessman Phillip Robinson is arguing that with Turks and Caicos Islanders being outnumbered at Beaches there was no way that when visitors come here they would get the Turks and Caicos experience.
“In the article, ‘Butch’ Stewart said the resort currently has 1,274 employees representing 30 nationalities; nationalities with a ratio of two to one per room. The hotel staff is drawn from Turks and Caicos, Central and South America, Canada, US and Europe.
“Now, if you have 1,274 employees at your resort, and you are looking to make your Jamaican base staff pool 503, to be exact, that means that you want your resort to be a dominant Jamaican face resort. So the face of the resort would not be Turks and Caicos.
“If you are going to have a mixture of 1,500 employees, and you have employees from Canada, the US, Canada, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, a thousand persons would be mixed of that pool, and 500 would be strong Jamaican; that would be a Jamaican entity in the Turks and Caicos Islands. There would be no way that a person can come to the Turks and Caicos Islands, live at Beaches and say they had a Turks and Caicos experience,” Robinson said.


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