28 January, 2009

Exploitation


Slave labour on the rise in Anguilla. The Chief Minister said to all of us in Anguilla just a few days ago that in these depressed economic times, it was necessary for the government to give preference to Anguillians over foreigners. He advised any foreign worker who was holding down a job that an Anguillian could do to leave our shores. He warned any unemployed foreign worker to leave the island immediately.


From the complaints that have been made to me, it seems that some of our legal foreign workers are being exploited mercilessly.


It is not as if this activity is new to Anguilla. How can we forget the amusement we all enjoyed back in the 1990s when Island Harbour fishermen took their boats to St Martin each morning. At the dock in Marigot they would hire Haitian illegal immigrants to dive for conch and lobster in deep water with defective scuba equipment. The Haitians were glad for the $5.00 a day they were offered. If one or two did not make it back to the surface, there was no one to complain. And, our fishermen’s bank accounts grew fat on the proceeds.


According to the Chief Minister’s PS, Foster Rogers, the number of work permits issued last year is 4,200. That is a lot of work permits for little Anguilla. That is about one third of our population [not counting the one thousand-odd Chinese and Indian workers who were initially confined to their containerized ghettos until our lax to non-existent enforcement authorities let them out to roam all over the island looking for work. For all statistical purposes, they are ghost workers who do not count.]


Some of our Anguillian building contractors learned from our fishermen. The construction industry is the major engine that drives the economy of Anguilla. Our building contractors like to employ foreign workers in preference to Anguillians. There are a number of reasons for this.


One, Vincentians, Dominicans, and St Lucians are docile and manageable. Unlike some annoying Anguillians who insist on being treated with fairness. Actually, best of all, these foreigners live in a state of perpetual terror of deportation.


Two, they are better qualified and more skilled than the average Anguillian unemployed construction worker, drug-dependent, semi-literate, lazy, school-reject that he tends to be. Technical workers from off-island go to trade school and get a certificate of competence. Ours are more likely to just drop out of school and demand a pass by the nearest rum shop at 7:00 in the morning on the way to work.


Three, they are so grateful for a job. We can pay them half of what we bill for their work, and pocket the balance. And, sweetness of all, we can make them in their desperation pay for their own work permits.


Four, we do not have to pay them their statutory holiday pay or overtime rates. Unless we get caught for not paying it. And, then, the worst thing that will happen is that we’ll be forced to pay them what we should have paid in the first place. With no penalty or disincentive. In this way, government actually encourages employers to rip off their workers.


Five, we can easily avoid the need to pay social security for them. We can even deduct from their pay their social security contribution, and then pocket it. Who in Social Security bothers to check construction sites? When was the last time you heard of anyone in Anguilla being prosecuted for any contravention of the Social Security statutes?


Six, job-hopping is strictly prohibited. They are indentured to you for the duration of the time they are permitted to be remain and be exploited in Anguilla.


Seven, the moment they complain, with the help and cooperation of the Immigration Department and the Labour Department you can fire them and have them deported from the island. Just claim you have no more work for them. Or, you can no longer afford them, and, pouff . . .


Eight, it helps if your cousin is Russel Reid, the Labour Commissioner.


Come on, Russel, we expect higher standards from you. No, they are not going to come to your office and complain in person to you. Not if they want to keep their jobs. You have to take the initiative and look out for their interests. You are expected to go out to the job places and check the employers’ books to see how well they are complying with our laws and regulations. Check with the workers personally, and in private. You have to double check your findings with Social Security. That is what you have all those inspectors for.


I am sure that the Chief Minister did not mean that it was OK for us to cruelly and illegally exploit foreign workers from our sister West Indian islands.



5 comments:

  1. Our leaders in government that spent their "formative" years working in St. Thomas either as bonded aliens, or illegally, should have known better than bring so many alien workers.

    But, doesn't the problem really lie with the attitude of so many with the "born here" degree thinking that they are owed a living? Just because they were born on Anguilla does not automatically mean they can demand top dollar for labour. How do you teach them that? It's not just an Anguilla problem. It is a problem elsewhere in this world with generations that haven't known what it means to be desperate for a work and be responsible enough to support oneself and one's offspring.

    All people seem to know is how to "rip off" others in order to get more money for themselves. Bad commentary on our society.

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  2. TRUE-FALSE-INCORRECT

    1. The Chief Minister said to all of us in Anguilla just a few days ago that in these depressed economic times, it was necessary for the government to give preference to Anguillians over foreigners. - TRUE


    2. He advised any foreign worker who was holding down a job that an Anguillian could do to leave our shores. - FALSE

    3. He warned any unemployed foreign worker to leave the island immediately.-INCORRECT

    N.B The Chief Minister called on non-nationals who were unemployed to leave the island. There were no warnings,threats or harsh language.It was a gentle and sensible suggestion.

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  3. Russel Reid is to be commended for keeping his office open through the lunch hour, starting next week. It is an archaic banana republic practice that requires that all employees must have lunch at the same time. But as we know, most government offices are operated for the convenience of the staff, not us who they claim to serve.

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  4. Positive Toilet paperFebruary 22, 2009 10:41 am

    TO sit back in history for a moment. THis is reasoning not an excuse for the treatment of our caribbean brothers and sisters.
    As described to me by the elders of pre and post revolution, times were hard. THe intrinsic avenue that had to be taken was voyages and work in Curacao, St. Kitts, Dominican Republic and St.Thomas for those who could afford the latter.
    The treatment was perhaps worse and the indiscriminate jiving and financial payment remained equalled to what was described by Sir Mitchell.
    This is not an excuse or justification for immigrants to be treated in the way they have been and even continue to be treated. It just illustrates the human element of vengence comming out.
    THis happens in the Cayman islands to Trinidad and more so around the world.
    What we must remain vigilant of is the fact that we must be unbiased and orientated with the human rights element. Placing ourselves in the reciprocal can enlighten us.
    Unplanned development! No! Unbalanced development perhaps. As a small island state you can not afford to get rid of the Agricultural base and have two major industries support your economy, namely construction and Tourism. that was our leaders first wrong. Secondly, When developing a nation, your human resource, your people and community and generations to come should come abreast with the dollar value. So instead of school buses perhaps 6 scholarships a year for the 6 top graduates from highschool from every major investor.
    Lastly, it is amazing how much we all can find wrong in the world. One colleague said to me" If i give a caribbean man a roll of toilet paper and tell him to write down what needs to change and the wrongs of the world, he will fill it to capacity, hell, there might not be enough, However, if i give him another to write down the solutions for the world, he may not reach half way." I say that to emphasize that we all look closer and solutions to the problems, and to Sir Mitchell, i love the deep and sometimes sarcastic illustrations you portray to make us think but i would also like to see the unbiased positives that we have going on, on the island. your operation seems slightly skewed to othe left.I would be much abliged.Keep up the good work.

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  5. This is adog eat dog world we are living in. Aperson must think of himself because when you are dead you are finshed.

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