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Lorna G. Smith’s Financial Services industry layoff proposal raises eyebrows

- Some consider portions of her recommendations a violation of the Labour Code; Email to Financial Services Industry obtained by our newsroom
Mrs Lorna G. Smith OBE, the interim Executive Director of BVI Finance, has raised eyebrows with her Email to the local Financial Services Sector concerning employees' welfare. Photo: VINO/File
Our newsroom obtained a copy of the controversial Email sent to the Financial Services Industry by Interim Executive Director of BVI Finance, Mrs Lorna G. Smith OBE. Photo: Team of Reporters
Our newsroom obtained a copy of the controversial Email sent to the Financial Services Industry by Interim Executive Director of BVI Finance, Mrs Lorna G. Smith OBE. Photo: Team of Reporters
Mr Julian Willock, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works, believes the First Lady Mrs Lorna G. Smith OBE was guided by her genuine concern for residents who will be laid off, which demonstrates her compassion in these trying times, but 'we also have to ensure that we navigate within the laws of the Territory.' Photo: VINO/File
Mr Julian Willock, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works, believes the First Lady Mrs Lorna G. Smith OBE was guided by her genuine concern for residents who will be laid off, which demonstrates her compassion in these trying times, but 'we also have to ensure that we navigate within the laws of the Territory.' Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- Within the last twenty four hours many in the Financial Services Industry have forwarded to our newsroom an Email, dated October 30, 2017 from Mrs Lorna G. Smith OBE, the interim Executive Director of BVI Finance.

In the Email to Law Firms, Trust Companies and others in the Financial Services Industry, Mrs Smith- the Territory’s First Lady, being the wife of Premier and Minister of Finance Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL)- sought to make some proposals for “individual firms to consider” as the Virgin Islands braces for the economic fallout of the powerful Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria that have destroyed the islands.

What to consider- Lorna G. Smith

In her one page Email, Mrs Smith writing in her capacity as Interim Executive Director of BVI Finance, the agency responsible for promoting and marketing the sector, suggested that companies "cut salaries by 25% across the board, suspend all allowances and benefits except for social security and health insurance and institute a 4 day a week for employees, but stagger so that staff is in the office 5 days a week.”

Her objective was to lessen the impact to Financial Services Sector employees "who must continue to pay bills, send children to school and buy food.”

Additionally, Mrs Smith, who is expected to vacate the post of Interim Executive Director tomorrow November 1, 2017 also told industry officials to consider as an alternative to layoffs “suspending all paid vacation and institute a two week vacation for all staff without pay.”

Illegal suggestions? We have a Labour Code!

However, a Senior Labour Officer speaking to our newsroom said as far as they know cutting salaries and suspending allowances is a “change of working conditions for the employee” and must be handled after consultations with the worker, as you do not want to violate Section 45 of the VI Labour Code. The Officer said the Employee will “have to agree to the changes as it will be a change of working conditions.”

The Labour Officer also made it clear that the issue of suspending all paid vacation and instituting a two week vacation for all staff without pay is a “flat out violation of the labour laws and cannot be considered by employers, as it would be illegal as per Section 64 of the Code.”

Mrs Smith was hopeful that if the industry institutes her recommendations “they would not be in place for no more than 12 months.”

Give her credit but we have laws- Julian Willock

Mr Julian Willock, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works who often speaks to the international community and media in defense of the VI Financial Services Sector, told our newsroom, “while I believe the First Lady was guided by her genuine concern for residents who will be laid off, which demonstrates her compassion in these trying times, we also have to ensure that we navigate within the laws of the Territory.”

Mr Willock further stated, “this could have the potential to set a precedent where some feel they could violate the labour laws and treat their employees unfairly using the 'carrot and stick method' of, if not these conditions you will be laid off, and this could also extend to other sectors of the economy.”

However, Mr Willock said “Lorna must be given some credit for at least trying to save jobs in this vital sector.”

The former Permanent Secretary and businessman, who had an interview in April of this year with the American National Public Radio about the off shore financial sector, said it was his understanding that following the hurricanes company registration had improved, “in fact they are said to be up.”

He said this sector is very vital to our economic recovery and we must work together to save it, but do so in a manner that is a “win win for all and within our laws that are on the books.”

A call to Mrs Smith for comment on her Email was not successful up to publication time.

45 Responses to “Lorna G. Smith’s Financial Services industry layoff proposal raises eyebrows”

  • Jezebel (31/10/2017, 14:35) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
    Look trouble for mehson
    • BVIslander (31/10/2017, 19:59) Like (19) Dislike (2) Reply
      Now we are paying for so many years of our entitlement culture. Financial Services firms and big law firms are using Irma to lay off those of our people who have not been pulling their weight for many years. Suspect it will continue and more and more firms see that you can dump your non-performing and difficult staff with attitude by relying on Irma. Everybody knows that it is the hopeless and difficult ones that have been laid off - nobody will be lining up to offer them jobs. Times they are a changing and we going to have to adjust or go hungry. All those expats that we made so unwelcome for so many years and now happily doing their jobs in other places where they have been made to feel welcome - none of them are dashing back to the BVI.
      • Please fedup (01/11/2017, 09:54) Like (14) Dislike (4) Reply
        Why you all are always saying BVI islanders have an entitlement mentally. Alot of the work done by the machines to clean up this place after the hurricane was done by BVIslanders who own them at their own expenses .
        What about the US civil rights movement those who were for and against was that about entitlement.

        The U.S gives aid every year to every sector for their economy to help their people and they are some jobs that must go to a citizen of that country. Asthematter of fact they are even some jobs in order to do them you must be a born Us citizen.

        BVIslanders are not looking handouts just opportunities and respect. The first time many BVIslanders can experience working with someone and you say good morning in our out of the office and that person ignores you bringing their bad culture and negative beliefs. Every government looks out for their people first and every people expect their Government to do so. Yes some staff are difficult and need to be getting rid of.

        But the problem comes when only BVIslanders are been let go, when some of these difficult rude and oppressive staff especially who sits at the top are not BVIlanders at all but because of certain beliefs these people have that they are entitled to be in a job and treat others like dirt even in their own country.
  • just asking... (31/10/2017, 15:04) Like (26) Dislike (1) Reply
    but her husband just said we are back on our feet!! so which is it?
    • Thanks Lorna. (31/10/2017, 17:58) Like (19) Dislike (2) Reply
      The Premier, the minister, labour, immigration, they are all jokes a waste of time...Some of these layoffs are storm excuses to hurt, to intimidate workers and to have one worker doing three workers job without complaining..
  • Emplyee (31/10/2017, 15:12) Like (9) Dislike (3) Reply
    Our salary was cut in half and we still working full day. Our Employer do not care about us nor the laws.
    • @employee. U brave. (31/10/2017, 18:11) Like (8) Dislike (2) Reply
      Sounds like you working for the devil at pasea. Don't go labour you wasting your time... As a matter afact half of labour and immigration need going home... People on permit to so A and they are doing AB and C while BVIslanders are sent home.. What d and ef going on in this place
      • Employee (01/11/2017, 10:32) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
        I work for a Trust Company. Its just crazy all around whats happening.
  • Lornie (31/10/2017, 15:37) Like (43) Dislike (4) Reply


  • VI Diva (31/10/2017, 15:51) Like (7) Dislike (1) Reply
    As soon as FSC counts their salary 25% we will do the same otherwise hush ....................
  • Tortola's Finest (31/10/2017, 17:01) Like (21) Dislike (1) Reply
    I understand your concerns First Lady. I could see how some of the options to consider might make sense.
    My problem with this is that there are many employees within these companies who are already making very little and struggling to make ends meet. If companies consider your proposal, they should also consider each person’s individual case also. Note my thoughts below:

    Maybe for those individuals who come to work and make substantial incomes, while their bills, as part of their package, are still being covered by the company (bills such as rent and their child’s school fees for example). They won’t hurt as much from salary cut as employees who make a mere $1500 to 2500 a month after taxes. Imagine in a case like this if the company went ahead and made a cut of 25%, that’s $1500-$375=$1125 or $2500-$625=$1875.

    Companies should not consider a flat 25% across the board but instead the percentage should be based on the employee’s income.

    Consider obvious cases such as single parent homes or homes with underage children and infants. If you have employees in these cases who are making little money, taking away a big chunk of their income can mean less food for their families as they are already working for just enough to pay bills.

    Also consider those employees who have a mortgage to pay and deal with those cases individually, so that even after a cut, they can also meet there payments as well as maintain themselves.

    Maybe the company can forfeit bonuses for the year to assist overall instead as we are in a tough economic situation at the moment given the disasters just occurred.

    As an underpaid worker of this industry, this is my honest opinion if these changes are inevitable.

  • terrible ideas (31/10/2017, 17:01) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
    so everyone has less disposable income with more free time to spend it.

    Roll on 1 November !!!
  • rubbish (31/10/2017, 17:26) Like (21) Dislike (1) Reply
    A load of rubbish. Why the croonies do not replace all the money that was stolen, stupidly spent and even more stupidly given away and create a benefits system so that employees can benefit. This will take some strain off of the employers, don't you think so? This suggestion is being made out of turn. It has no legal standing and it is not in her place to create new rules...what more suffering do people have to go through that the rubbish government has not put them through already? Sickening. And worst of all, speaking above the Premier by providing a conflicting report on the state of the territory. Do they live together? Shocking!
  • point missed (31/10/2017, 17:27) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    The problem is that financial services companies are likely to be asked for more not less from their employees - those who have not already had to leave their jobs - as the cost of living goes up for a while and the hardship and loss has been experienced by staff, just as all of us have.
    Other jurisdictions are waiting in the wings for experienced professionals (and their clients) in order to grow their populations and economies. Many want to push on with BVI to rebuild but it will be difficult as it will for everyone. Add in that the services and amenities, will be below pre-Irma standards which already required improvement, including schools, healthcare, recreation spaces and we need to pull out all of the stops to keep people here. piddling about with holiday pay is not going to do it. financial services and therefore our economy is under serious threat right now.
  • Lonnie (31/10/2017, 17:49) Like (19) Dislike (4) Reply
    The real premier has spoken. She is who running this country from behind the curtain. He’s just the puppet. (Ok Doo Doo darling, if you say so, that I what I will do)
    Ain who wear the pants. It’s who wearing the panty. Then again , maybe they b... do.
    Tings to talk..
  • Good lady..U earn my heart. (31/10/2017, 17:54) Like (10) Dislike (4) Reply
    Lorna should have been the Minister of Labour..We get no representation...Rite Way come into this country making millions. Then they come with these weired excuses to layoff hard working family people.. Thoses Rite way stores that got damage that they are using as excuse to lay workers off..These stores are insured and they can be restocked in 2 days. They have the inventory... Sad..
  • Kim (31/10/2017, 18:02) Like (14) Dislike (3) Reply
    I believe she is right it is better to cut my salary instead of laying me off if it boils down i am going for a cut in salary thank you
  • Good VS Evil Boycott RW (31/10/2017, 18:06) Like (13) Dislike (4) Reply
    Supa Value got damage, Bobby's got damaged, one mart got damaged. They all depend on the same businesses and the same people like Rite Way. How come only R W decide to layoff.. Ste3eeeeepid Laboiuurr on their side..We need to boycott RW and spend our money at People who care about us. One mart, Supa Value, Bobby's,
    • @Good VS Evil. Haycraft. (01/11/2017, 08:33) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
      Mr Haycraft would have never done that. Not one staff would have to worry.. Never rejoice over who is coming. Be sad for who is leaving
    • Caribbean Cellars and Tico (01/11/2017, 08:46) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
      @ Good Vs Evil. U forget Caribbean Cellars and Tico they too got mash up and looted badly. They too depend on the same businesses the same cuatomers and not one worker got laid off...These are the businesses local businesses need to support...
  • Bud (31/10/2017, 18:08) Like (11) Dislike (0) Reply
    We are seeing who the Premier of BVI. Wonder of there is conflict of interest with the pending job. Any salary cuts should start with the leader. That is thr Primier
  • Lorna (31/10/2017, 18:19) Like (6) Dislike (7) Reply
    Much Respect....
  • Hmmm (31/10/2017, 19:22) Like (14) Dislike (7) Reply
    This is a Jezebel spirit that needs to be removed from power.
  • voter (31/10/2017, 20:07) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    Thanks vino only you have the real news
  • Ned (31/10/2017, 21:10) Like (14) Dislike (0) Reply
    Remember. You were not always rich. Think on how this country helped you.
  • Ponytail. (31/10/2017, 21:28) Like (1) Dislike (9) Reply
    Come to think it we should try a woman a the nextpremier but then only some people will benefits .mrs smith has good points
  • fowl foot (31/10/2017, 21:48) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
    This is s wake up call we were going no where to fast the master spoke to us showing he is still in charge
  • Moo moo of the year (31/10/2017, 22:01) Like (9) Dislike (2) Reply
    Only a moo moo will say we are back on our feet
  • Liat 521 (01/11/2017, 06:16) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    Typical of some people they think they could do as they PLEASE
  • JayEm (01/11/2017, 07:58) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    It is a mere suggestion. She is not holding a gun to anyone's head demanding these things be done. Employers can curtail these suggestions if they want to actally prevent laying ppl off. I still have a job, but I bet the persons who were layed off and have no idea how their bills are going to get paid, fully grasp what she is saying.
  • @Liat 531. Agree (01/11/2017, 08:35) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Most of them who are EF EN up people are on work permit
  • Street Reporter. Hidden Truth. (01/11/2017, 09:14) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    Does government or anyone knows the amount of Toilet Paper and Paper towels this one company dumped just because the cases got wet. We all know that those items come with protective plastic covering. No love for people. Why they didn't contributed them to the people who in need. The same people who flock to their stores to support them... Sad. Time for us to wake and see and stop walking blind..
  • First Lady... (01/11/2017, 10:52) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply

    What a thing to tell the king... they flew first/ priority class yesterday! There is no shift or demotion in their standard of living! So why they here suggesting f@kry! When these Ministers cut themselves down to the average Man level... then I will support what they have going on! Until then... if it’s business as usual for you guys... then it’s business as usual for us locals... full salaries and paid on time!

  • we need to march so she will go home (01/11/2017, 15:41) Like (6) Dislike (5) Reply
    heard she is still not leaving the post. SMH shameful
    • @ we need to march for she to go home...Bull shea..Hater. (01/11/2017, 16:37) Like (1) Dislike (5) Reply
      U will be marching for the wrong things and the wrong reason. U have lots of good reason to march. This is definetely not one of Them. This lady has more courage than u and all the people in labour and immigration and all who u vote for. Stop hating!
    • @we need to march for she to go home (01/11/2017, 16:45) Like (4) Dislike (1) Reply
      U sound like one of those free riders that sits in an office and lives off the fat of the land...
  • We suffering (01/11/2017, 16:31) Like (3) Dislike (5) Reply
    All we needed is a voice. A powerful voice speaking on our behalf.. Thanks Lorna. U did your part. Walk proud. Sleep well.
  • Juan (01/11/2017, 22:00) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    We take you over you to call family to come Tortola plenty job for hard worker..Mr manila.
  • Right Sed Fred (02/11/2017, 06:13) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Bohog put in gold teet. Watch doc Snmith fly first class to London and stay in the top hotel.
  • Alert (02/11/2017, 18:16) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Civil servants, this may be an insight in what is to come. Take heed. Everyone should start making calculations on what if.
  • WHAT THE HELL??? (03/11/2017, 14:48) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Most of what this woman suggesting is in breach of the Labour know that the wife of the Premier thinks this way is scary...if it she wrote the email...SCARY....thank God we have existing Labour Laws to protect Employees. Is this why the Government has refrained from publicly warning employers that they have to pay severance pay if the layoff is beyond 3 months. Is the Government just for employers???? In countries where they allow layoffs without the employer paying the country has a social welfare programme for unemployment. BVI does not have. This 3 months lay off without pay is unfair and unreasonable if the Government does not have an unemployment benefit. Unemployment benefit is something that can be done through social security. SMH SMH SMH..... NEXT ELECTION PLEASE

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