Basseterre, St. Kitts, October 24, 2015 (SKNIS)—The Government of National Unity is taking seriously cases of illegal foreign workers being employed in St. Kitts and Nevis to work on construction sites.
A caller raised the issue on the government’s radio programme “Working for You” Wednesday (October 21) with guest Premier Honourable Vance Amory, who is the minister of labour. The caller suggested that a number of workers employed on construction sites are working illegally and their employers are not paying social security contributions. Mr. Amory said Social Security has been visiting the construction sites and he has insisted that the Labour Department do the same.
“We have insisted that the labour department undertake site visits and some of those issues have come up and we are seeking to address them to make sure that they do not re-occur or continue,” Amory said. “I think it’s important that we see (these practices) as a threat to good working relations and they are contrary to international standards. We want as a country to maintain our credibility in the international labour market. We must ensure that people comply with the rules; that employers follow their obligation which they must have under the law so that their employees do not suffer.”
The Labour Minister noted that it is bad for employees who after working and becoming sick, are unable to get social security benefits because their employers did not contribute to the fund.
“We are going to try to deal with those matters because we have to protect our employees and we also want the employers to feel that they too are protected by the law,” Mr. Amory added.
Meanwhile, the premier said he has mandated the labour commissioner to visit all of the work sites and ensure that workers there are properly documented.
“They have been charged to visit all of the work sites to ensure that workers who are there are properly documented; that is if they have authority to work—work permits if required. And this is something that we will insist upon,” Amory said.
“We have also insisted that skilled people, people who want jobs, that they go into the employment section division of the Labour Department, put their names, put their qualifications, addresses and other contact numbers so that when a request for a worker is made, at least we know we have a cadre of workers there which we can advise the employer, the investor on, so that we get a first preference for our workers,” the senior minister stated.
Another caller to the programme suggested foreign workers were leaving Nevis to work on construction sites in St. Kitts. Premier Amory explained that this was due to a request by a local contractor engaged in a development in St. Kitts.
“We granted those work permits based on the request of the local contractor who was contracted, employed to engage in a development here in St. Kitts and that was done in accordance to all the rules,” Amory said, noting that the positions were advertised before the request for permits was made.