Mec Vannins' submission to the Isle of Man Department of Trade and Industry on proposed Work Permit regulation changes - Novemebr 2002


Mec Vannin regard a work permit system as a mere supplement to a citizenship framework. In the absence of such a citizenship framework, the work permit legislation forms (in theory) a crude form of immigration control. It is stressed that this situation is purely theoretical since, as is admitted by the Department of Industry itself, of nearly 13,000 work permits issued in the past two years, a mere 57 have been revoked. It is also readily admitted that the overwhelming majority of work permit applications are made upon the presumption that they will be granted. Indeed, the refusal of a work permit seems to provoke self-righteous indignation in some quarters.

It has long been held by both Mec Vannin and a large number of others in the Island that the work permit system is nothing more than an administrative sop to be ignored or over-ridden for the greater part or, on just a few occassions, used as a punitive measure against individuals or businesses who have incurred the disfavour of someone in government. Coupled with the well known device of tailoring a job application to suit a particular applicant, the system is totally lacking in any credibility and is indeed in need of substantial overhaul. This is where Mec Vannin and the Department under Mr. Downie are, and are likely to remain, diametrically opposed.

The economy of the Isle of Man has been "boom-bust" for as long as there has been work permit legislation and so its presence can be seen to be singularly ineffective in stabilising the economy or employment situation. When there is a boom, work permit criteria are relaxed. This is the very time that the economic upper hand is available to force businesses to train and recognise through promotion and wages the indigenous workforce. It is also the time that population increase must be discouraged in order to prevent artificially high unemployment figures in the inevitable bust that follows.

Conversely, in times of economic down-turn when natural emigration and disinsentive to imigration renders the work permit system virtually defunct, it s applied more rigorously. This is essentially because time allows it and traditionally, in a most immature piece of reasoning,, the government believe that unemployment figures can be driven down by denying permits to those who were welcomed with open arms a couple of years earlier. The real result is that unemployed Manx workers are frequently driven into jobs beneath their real worth (or risk losing benefit) whilst those requiring a permit may continue to receive state support as long as a permit is denied them.

The consultative document demonstrates the intention of the Department of Industry under Mr. Downie to facilitate the short term and self serving interests of business (and frequently non-Manx business at that) to the detriment of the Manx work-force by formalising what has been the fundamental failiure of the work-permit system for decades. It must also be stressed that the work permit system and its failures are merely one aspect of an ongoing failiure of governments in the Isle of Man to actually represent and provide a future for the Manx people. To look at work-permit regulation in isolation rather than as part of a cohesive policy of economic and social management is virtually meaningless: Of course there will be a demand to import people with skills as long as there is no requirement to train. Of course talent will leave as long as both educational and employment opportunities are not available on our own doorstep. Of course there will be a shortage of workers overall as long as the economy is allowed to run out of control as it is now. The list could go on and on.

Bearing in mind that this matter cannot and must not be viewed in isolation, Mec Vannin submits the following viewpoint and policies for work permit regulation.

I - Application Principles

Work permits should only ever be regarded as a temporary measure. A work permit should only ever be issued for a fixed term to complete a specific job or to train a Manx worker to the required standard. The issue and re-issue of work permits on an open ended basis until one is no longer required is a farce. The only other circumstance under which work permits should be issued is to those who are undergoing a probationary period with a view to taking up permanent residence in the Island. Such people would have to already have to have met other criteria. Re-issues of work permits should only occur when exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.

In light of the above, automatic grant of "Isle of Man Worker" status to those who have ghad a permit for 5 years must cease.

It must be made clear in any and all job adverts carried off-Island that work permit legislation is in force.

All work-permit applications and approvals should be available for public inspection.

All job vacancies should be advertised on the Island BEFORE any off-Island advertising is embarked upon.

The criteria for advertising jobs to the Manx workforce before entertaining off-Island advertising must be made clear. At the moment, it is difficult to get the same answer twice as to what level of advertising and where is required in the Isle of Man to satisfy work permit legislation.

Manx job applicants must be informed of any non-Manx applicants and any unsuccessful applicant must be informed if the job goes to a non-Manx applicant.

All applications must contain a declaration regarding any criminal past and an authorisation to be positively vetted. Applications from jurisdictions that do not cooperate should not be considered.

Declarations regarding any long-term health problems and / or habituations should be included. Again, an authorisation to confirm from current medical records must be included.

Whereas the current 3 day exemption for sporadic work is reasonable, this exemption must not apply if the visits form part of a regular capacity within the Island e.g. a person who regularly visits the Island for two days each month should require a permit.

There must be no exempt occupations.

Self-employed applicants must demonstrate that the issue of a permit would not be detrimental to a Manx worker.

All applicants must be able to provide references.

II - Reasons for Refusal

Failiure to meet any of the above criteria must result in a refusal.

False declarations must result in an automatic disbar with a potential for legal action.

If positive vetting reveals a problem in keeping with clearly laid out criteria, the permit must not be issued.

If a capable Manx worker is available, then a permit must not be issued.

If a Manx worker can be trained within a reasonable period of time, the permit must not be issued.

Any previous contravention of the regulations should act as an obstacle.

No permits should be issued to any business that has suffered redundancies within the previous 12 months.

No permits should be issued to any business that has announced redundancies.

III - The Function and Powers of the Work Permit Committee.

The primary function of the work permit committee must be to determine firstly if a a permit is justifiable and secondly if the applicant is suitable.

In this aspect, the above guidelines must be followed. Although the above is a "bare bones" set of principles, the fleshed out legislation must leave the least possible room for subjective decision making on the part of the committee.

To establish a genuine need, the committee must be sufficiently resourced to consult and acquire independent advice as to the skills, qualifications and experience needed to perform a particular function. The applicants must demonstrate that there is not a reasonable opportunity to train, adapt or promote a Manx worker to a given position.

Similarly, the committee must be sufficiently resourced to properly investigate the declarations and backgrounds of the individuals seeking work-permits.

IV - Enforcement

Past experience demonstrates that both work permit applications and subsequent enforcement have been subject to substantial political interference that have left the Manx workforce with no confidence in a system that was already regarded as little more than cosmetic. To have any meaning, the legislation must be seen to be effective in both the administration of work permits and the detection and punishment of offenders.

The posturing of the Moon family, then owners of the Castle Mona Hotel, secured an improperly issued permit for a member of there family. People and businesses who use this tactic do not benefit the Island and its people and should be given every assistance to leave.

The failiure of the Attorney General to prosecute a single instance of the massive abuse uncovered by inspectors at the Ballamona hospital site should itself be subject to a thorough public inquiry since, at the current time, there can be little conclusion drawn other thatn the Attorney General was acting under orders from a political entity.

To ensure the proper enforcement of work permit legislation, NI and tax records should cross reference to work permit status.

If more inspectors are required to carry out work-place investigations, then these must be made available. Further investigation of the function of the DoTI as administrator and policer of the legislation is also required as there is a strong perception that policing is, like the work permit administration, subject to political interference.

V - Specific comments on the Department's proposals.

As has been previously stated by Mec Vannin, the proposals represent a betrayal of the Manx people. This is a shining example of a politician elected by the people to represent their interests, acting as a poodle for business interests whose primary objective is short term monetary gain.

Where a capable Manx worker is available for a position, the only question that should ever arise is if there is a better Manx worker available. Any other course is against the best interests of the Manx people.

The notion that the interests of business automatically serve the interests of the Manx people is totally fallacious. Businesses exist to maximise profit for their owners and share-holders. In the area of employment, this means means maximum exploitation for minimum regulation. As long as businesses are permitted to import off-the -shelf candidates in lieu of providing proper training and long-term commitment to our people, the Manx workers will be forever condemened to be treated as second rate and denied the opportunity to fulfil their true potential. The alternative is emigration, a course which many are continuing to follow.

The only aspect of the proposed changes for which we can find support is the proposal to hold hearings in public and, typically, this support is tainted by the fact that the proposal is to satisfy external convention rather than any inherent desire to see just administration. The proposal is further sullied by the proposal to give the Tribunal unilateral power to go into private, carte blanche for abuse if ever there was.


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