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'Immigration & Labour cannot be a runaway train'- Hon Wheatley

- said tough decisions will be made to control the Territory's workforce & block loopholes
Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Honourable Vincent O. Wheatley (R9) has said people have been taking advantage of loopholes in the Labour and Immigration Departments but he intends to stop that from happening. Photo: GIS/File
According to Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Honourable Vincent O. Wheatley (R9), staff of Immigration Department have been working in poor conditions, overworked and underpaid. Photo: VINO/File
According to Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Honourable Vincent O. Wheatley (R9), staff of Immigration Department have been working in poor conditions, overworked and underpaid. Photo: VINO/File
Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Honourable Vincent O. Wheatley (R9) has commended the work of the Labour Department, saying it has managed to do a good job under the difficult circumstances; however, there are issues to be addressed. Photo: VINO/File
Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Honourable Vincent O. Wheatley (R9) has commended the work of the Labour Department, saying it has managed to do a good job under the difficult circumstances; however, there are issues to be addressed. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- Calling them vexing issues, Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Honourable Vincent O. Wheatley (R9) has said the matters of controlling the workforce, blocking loopholes in the system, and ensuring better working conditions for Immigration and Labour Departments staff are among the high priorities for him to address.

Speaking during the 2019 Budget Debate at Second Sitting of the First Session of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA) today Thursday, April 25, 2019, Honourable Wheatley also said it was critical that the Labour Department and Immigration Department work together for the common good of the Territory and steps are already in place to ensure it happens.

Immigration Officers “Overworked & Underpaid”

Addressing the topic of Immigration, Hon Wheatley said he noticed it is “open season” at Immigration Department as everyone now seems to have a complaint against the department. Adding he wasn’t defending any unprofessional behaviour by Immigration Officers, as such is unacceptable at any level, Hon Wheatley said he wanted to defend the department because he felt the workers have been treated very badly over the years.

“Mr Speaker, you cannot have somebody working in poor conditions, overworked and underpaid. How you pay somebody $20,000 a year in this day and age and expecting them to smile. There is nothing to smile about. These are people who have to feed their families.”

Hon Wheatley said he would be addressing Immigration Department in a holistic manner and has already started receiving the files for all of the officers.

“We cannot go wrong with Immigration. These are the first set of people all our visitors see when they come to our beautiful islands. And if you are injecting this extra million into tourism to bring more people here we have to make sure our gate keepers are giving them the best welcome we can.”

Continuing his “defence” of the Department, Hon Wheatley said officers of Immigration Department work some very difficult hours, seven days a week. “They don’t close down like some people, 8:30am to 4:30pm. They work morning, noon and night, holidays, you name it. We have to make sure we take care of this Immigration Department.”

We are going to make “tough decisions” @ Labour Department

The Minister and Representative for the Ninth District also commended the work of Labour Department, saying it has managed to do a good job under the difficult circumstances; however, there are issues to be addressed.

“They are not perfect, the system isn’t perfect but we are going to take our time and fix these things. They aren’t easy decisions to make but we weren’t sent to make easy decisions. We were sent here to fix some serious problems and answer some very difficult questions and make some really tough decisions. We are not afraid. We are going to make them and we are going to fix some problems.”

“People running circles around us”

Not getting into specifics, Hon Wheatley said he is of the view some people feel believe they can manipulate the system at will.

“Some people feel they can run circles around all our laws. This is a free for all. Once you know the right people and once you know the right tricks you come in here and you take over so to speak. You do what you want, because you figure out some loopholes.”

The Minister responsible for both Immigration Department and Labour Department said persons might be studying how to take advantage of the loopholes in the laws but he is studying how to block the loopholes.

Noting that construction work in the Territory is expected to slow down at some point, Hon Wheatley said the serious question would then be about where the construction workers will go. He said Little Dix Bay Hotel and Resort, for example, plans to open later this year and is hoping to hire between 200 and 250 persons.

“But where are these 250 workers coming from? Are we going to deport 200 construction workers and bring in 200 service workers? Are we going to transition the construction workers into service workers? Are we going to train all the people who are around here to go into these fields. We have to make sure our people aren’t consistently being bypassed.”

The first term Member of the House of Assembly, Hon Wheatley, said it’s a tough decision that has to be made and some people aren’t going to like them.

“But we have to make them, because Immigration and Labour cannot be a runaway train, where things are happening and happening and you have no control over it. We have to get control over these things. Yes, we have to build the country and we can’t build the country by over selves, that we know. We have to control the growth of the country. We have to control the shape of the country and the look of the workforce.

“I don’t think the way it is going now is sustainable. It is actually quite dangerous the way it is going now. It has to be arrested,” Hon Wheatley declared.

18 Responses to “'Immigration & Labour cannot be a runaway train'- Hon Wheatley”

  • 911 (25/04/2019, 19:49) Like (24) Dislike (10) Reply
    he is right
  • The TRUTH (25/04/2019, 19:49) Like (23) Dislike (5) Reply
    I hope Wheatley has the guts to walk the walk.
    • First Thing (25/04/2019, 22:42) Like (13) Dislike (2) Reply
      First thing is a new Labour and immigration chief
      • @First Thing (26/04/2019, 08:19) Like (7) Dislike (1) Reply
        I think I understand why you may think it necessary to make the suggested change but consider this also. First of all I could not agree with the humbled minister more. I am confident that as a humbled civil servant he recognized the need for better administration of these services but as he should have, respected the then leadership authority. Perhaps the Labour Commissioner and Immigration chief were of the same convictions and humbly awaited change. Why deprive them of an opportunity to serve as they ought to? Remember they are the ones with years of needed experience. Now if they display a negative attitude to the change then yes, by all means, transfer them to a place where they can serve better.
  • Halo (26/04/2019, 00:30) Like (33) Dislike (3) Reply
    hon. Wheatley, you continue to impress me with your insight, wisdom and empathy. You are a decent humanbeing and I am so confident you will serve this country well.
  • Vinoluv (26/04/2019, 05:37) Like (9) Dislike (5) Reply
    Mr. Wheatley you know that includes your friends on VG too..... not so nice guy!
  • 360 (26/04/2019, 07:23) Like (14) Dislike (8) Reply
    He is singing a different tune now falling for the excuses the department giving him...Big salary small salary indoor in the sun or inside in air condition has little to do with good service. Been nice, been respectful, doing what is right been fair is just not in some people nature no matter how big the salary and how good the conditions. On the other hand some people no matter how small the salary and how bad the conditions they do whats right and deliver quality service... He needs to take customers complained seriously.... Change a few labour laws also... This 3 months home no pay law is inhumane all infavor of the employer.. No care for the suffering of the employees..
  • Wow (26/04/2019, 09:19) Like (12) Dislike (0) Reply
    This goes to all cause it have some business paying ppl 6.00 an hour and want to be over working you.!! How you going to be happy if you cant even survive!! Some bosses to wicked
    • Truth (26/04/2019, 12:49) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      The government should pay its employees a fair wage but they need to pay them only what everyone else gets when it comes to retirement, that why they put up with low wages, work 25 years then retire and still get paid near what you made....thats why the country broke!
    • Challenging (26/04/2019, 14:48) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
      People have to understand the BVI is not a cheap place to live. You cannot come to the BVI and agree to work for the minimum wage of $6.00 per hour and then be upset.
  • serious.. (26/04/2019, 10:43) Like (11) Dislike (3) Reply
    The Law says 40 hrs a week for a regular worker. The law is not clear on how much hours a supervisor. Assistant managee and manager need to put in a week...No human should be given a working schedule in excess of 44 hrs a week.Without compensation Supervisor. Manager. No body..Though they on salary.. If situation arises where they are required to put in extra hours it must be voluntary...an extra four hrs a week for a salary supervisor is 16 extra hours a month..That's like 200 extra hours a yrs plus holidays with no compensation... Labour need to address that..
    • @ Serious (26/04/2019, 11:42) Like (5) Dislike (4) Reply
      Does the law truly say " 40 hrs a week for a regular worker"? You can't be serious?
  • True (26/04/2019, 12:46) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Loopholes need to be shut down just because you know someone or your family name and suddenly your workers or friends have residency is beyond a joke. The other matter about locals being bypassed, as the 9th rep he must realise all the jobs on Anegada that are advertised are never taken up by people on Tortola who complain there is no jobs, its a big problem.
  • Oh Yeah! (26/04/2019, 13:46) Like (8) Dislike (3) Reply
    People should be paid based on their qualifications, experience and job performance. So just like teachers have to now have teaching qualifications to teach our immigration, customs and labour officers should also be required to be qualified in these areas before they can be given a job in any of these departments. It should be necessary for them to have a basic understandings of the laws for these departments be well versed in emotional intelligence with some understanding of human psychology. Maybe the $20,000. a year officer only qualifies for that amount.
  • watching (26/04/2019, 14:04) Like (10) Dislike (0) Reply
    I think the country is overpopulated right now , I think they make the mistake of bringing in too many construction workers and a lot of them not working. Look by the roundabout in town and we can see. It getting scary because when people not working then the crime will start. Thank you Honourable Wheatley for being on the look out.
  • Phene (26/04/2019, 14:05) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    What I find interesting is that some people working for resorts are being scheduled to work on graveyard shifts and then the first shift the next day sometimes. Are there laws to prevent this? Sometimes I believe some of these employers set people up to fail because if I work what we call the "grave yard" shift how in God's name should I be expected to work again in the morning at 6 a.m. This is so wrong.
  • solution (27/04/2019, 08:33) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Since you don’t know what to do , why not putt the construction workers in the hotels to work on construction and have them send for their wife girlfriends baby mother and sweethearts to do the hospitality service, you all are taking in everyone and leaving your own people to suffer. Anyone thinking on the young people coming out of school. I’m getting real sick of this, no plans for your own people.Stupid
  • musa (28/04/2019, 15:26) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    this vg boss will be the best in the vip team


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