The umbrella body for employers in T&T is calling for a special policy to allow for the proper integration of Venezuelan migrants into the local labour force.
Over 16,000 Venezuelan migrants registered with Immigration Division between May 31 and June 14, during an amnesty which allows them to work in this country for up to a year. Already several companies have offered registered Venezuelans employment opportunities.
Speaking with Guardian Media on Thursday officials of the Employers’ Consultative Association said there were several grey areas for employers who are hiring these migrants.
According to the association’s interim Chief Executive Officer, Stephanie Fingal, the country has only heard that migrants do not have to pay national insurance. But she questioned whether employers will be expected to uphold other legal benefits as stated under the Maternity Protection, Industrial Relations and the Workmen Compensation Acts.
Fingal said under those pieces of legislation there was nothing which states a migrant worker was not eligible. In fact, she stated the legislation only made reference to a “worker.”
Vice-Chairman of the association, Farzan Ali, said the Government may have jumped the gun in allowing Venezuelans to register before putting together a national labour policy for migrants.
However, he insisted it was not too late to cater for migrant workers and expressed hope that the ECA will be called to the table by the Government to have such a policy put together.
Ali said he was recently part of a discussion hosted by the ECA’s parent body, the International Organization for Employers (IOE), in Geneva where presentations were made by a number of countries who are grappling with mass migration.
Going forward, he said, the IOE was formulating a framework for managing the migrant labour process and he hopes to share this information with the government.
Even though the Venezuelan migrant registration policy has ended and many are already working, Ali said the Government still had time to formulate a policy that will benefit both employees and employers.
Fingal suggested that the Accreditation Council be consulted during this process.
“How do we validate the academics the person will bring forward and equate them with the level of what we have in Trinidad? When we say we need five O’ levels, what does that mean for five subjects from Venezuela?” she asked.
Both Fingal and Ali said they believe an expansion of the labour force will augur well for this country’s competitiveness competence.
As such, Ali encouraged companies to fill legitimate vacancies.
Further, they suggested companies engage with the respective unions to draft a tentative hiring plan to allow for the inclusion of migrants in the workforce. In addition, they are calling for more resources to be pumped into the Labour Inspectorate Unit of the Ministry of Labour to ensure companies do not take advantage of not only migrants but locals as well.
The ECA currently has about 600 active members. Members are meeting today to formulate a guidance policy for hiring migrants.
Reporter: Bavita Gopaulchan