In the wake of a projected increase in unemployment due to Hurricane Dorian and with hundreds of people from the impacted islands out of work, Director of Labour John Pinder said yesterday that his department has started rejecting more notification of vacancy (NOV) applications to ensure Bahamians get job placement.
Pinder said since the storm, at least one thousand people from Grand Bahama and Abaco registered with the department’s jobs bank for job placement.
However, Pinder couldn’t say how many people have been placed in jobs.
The Nassau Guardian has recently documented the accounts of residents finding it hard to seek employment in an already stretched economy.
“Certainly, those who do find themselves in those positions, we’re doing all we can to find jobs for them. We don’t wish for anybody to be in financial disadvantage because their island was affected by the hurricane. So yes, we’re trying to do the best we can, first of all to get the employers in Grand Bahama who could take some of these persons to reject the NOVs (notice of vacancy) for foreign workers,” Pinder told Guardian Business.
“So, we’ve been rejecting a number of those and trying to force or encourage the employers on those islands – on Grand Bahama in particular because there’s not much commerce going on in Abaco at this time – to do as best they can to let us know what the criteria is. For those who don’t meet the criteria, we can quickly ensure that they get some training to ensure that they are able to get employment.”
Last month, Pinder predicted the unemployment rate – which stood at 9.5 percent in May – would rise as high as 12 percent as a result of the Category 5 storm.
Yesterday, Pinder said at this time when the economy is so fragile, he believes there should be a significant reduction in approved foreign labor permits while Bahamians try to rebuild their lives.
“From my perspective, as it relates to the number of NOVs we approve, I think we will have to make some sort of decision to cause employers to offer Bahamians a little more [money] because for the most part, Bahamians don’t accept these jobs because the employers always want to bring in foreign workers at minimum wage. But I’m saying to employers now, you have to pay the work permits, so the $2,000 to $4,000 you pay for work permits, add that to the base salary that you’re trying to offer a Bahamian and see if you can get a Bahamian to fill that position,” Pinder said.
“In addition, we’re trying to tell Bahamians, you’ve got to push a little harder now, because there’s a lot of competition out there. You’ve got to push a little harder to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, so that these employers don’t come telling us that they can’t find Bahamians who are willing to assist them as best they can.
“For example, there’s a company that asked for 18 permits and it is a specialized service that they provide. I have said to them, ‘I will give you eight, you have to train Bahamians for the other ten, I can’t give you 18’. So, we’ve been trying to encourage employers to train Bahamians.
“Some people have contracts to provide maid services in the major establishments and I’ve been saying to them, ‘I’m not going to give you these permits, you have to find Bahamians’.”
Nearly 30,000 people were impacted and displaced by the storm, which hit northern Bahamas in September.
Pinder said while many have found short-term employment on their own and in some cases overseas, jobs have been slow in coming for others.
“We were able to find some bit of employment for some of them, but we don’t wish to encourage displaced people to not try to get back to develop those areas again. We would like for persons from the displaced areas – Abaco and Grand Bahama – to return; they have to build their economy back as soon as their businesses are open,” he said.
“Where we’ve found that the businesses have made a determination through settlement and separation packages that they are not going to reopen, those are the persons who we are trying to find jobs for and we’re still hoping to find jobs for them on the respective islands. We think it’s very important for the Abaconians and the Grand Bahamians to build back Abaco and Grand Bahama.”