I stand in support of Opposition Leader Mrs Kamla Persad Bissessar SC, in raising dire concerns regarding the granting of exemptions to thirty-nine (39) foreign workers by the Minister of National Security- Honourable Stuart Young.
My understanding is that these exemptions were requested by Blue Waters Limited, and granted by the Minister on the basis that the expertise of these foreign workers was critical to the entrepreneurial endeavours of the company.
The below questions immediately come to mind:
1) What was the nature of the expertise of these foreign workers that made them critical enough to be granted exemptions ahead of citizens of this country who have been locked out of our country for months?
2) What is the nature of operations by a water bottling plant that was critical enough to warrant the importation of labour at a time like this?
3) Did Blue Waters Ltd attempt to access this expertise from the local labour pool before seeking foreign workers?
4) Did the Chief Manpower Officer at the Ministry of Labour recommend any workers with the skill sets required by Blue Waters Ltd from the National Unemployment Registry?
5) Did the Minister of National Security seek to liaise with the Minister of Labour regarding the use of local workers within the required skill set category as an alternative to the foreign workers who were granted exemption?
6) Which other companies have applied for exemptions for their workers, and were granted exemptions ahead of nationals stranded abroad?
7) Did the Minister seek to engage the umbrella labour organizations (NATUC, JTUM, and FITUN) to solicit their views regarding the importation of foreign labour, over the use of local workers given the prevailing economic conditions?
These are simply some of the alarming questions which now permeate the national conversation as a result of the Minister’s suspicious approval of exemptions.
There is a perceived lack of fairness as we see exemptions being granted for foreign workers, while 8,000 plus nationals, who are also workers, remain shut out of their home without a chance to earn a living.
With no fairness by the Minister and no efficient execution of exemptions, it is no wonder that, instead of celebrating its 65th anniversary joyfully, the ruling PNM lost considerable political ground in one day in two of its hard core territories; Tobago and Arima.
Stuart Young needs to stop being unpatriotic, elitist and selective in his granting of exemptions, and bring every one of our stranded citizens back home now!