Rogue employers exploiting construction workers

| 24/07/2012

3290854-construction.jpg(CNS): Complaints from workers that contractors are insisting that they take out their own health insurance, workplace cover and pensions are justified the new labour department has confirmed. Caymanians and permit holders who are seeking work in the building industry do not have to be self-employed agents to work on sites and employers who hire workers, other than a properly licensed sub-contractor or consultant, should take on the liabilities for all employees. The director of the department has said that it takes a “dim view” of any employers who are attempting to exploit workers.He urged anyone who has been told to get their own insurance, health cover, pensions or pay for their permit to lodge a complaint with the department so it can follow up on the accusations.

Mario Ebanks told employers to consult the Labour Law or seek proper legal advice to develop lawful employment contracts. Meanwhile, he said Caymanian or non-Caymanian job seekers who have faced such demands from potential or current employers should report it to the Labour and pensions office, Immigration Enforcement, the Department of Commerce, the Health Insurance Commission, or the National Pensions Office

“During these tough economic times the Department takes a dim view of employers who exploit workers, of any nationality, who are trying to make a decent living and to support their families,” Ebanks said adding that officials will pursue complaints against rogue employers.

He acknowledged that there were contractors attempting to exploit workers and he said that although Caymanian workers could in some circumstances be employed as sub-contractors by general contractors this is extremely costly and would require the construction workers to also have trade & business licenses and be registered as self-employed. Ebanks explained that regular workers must be employed under lawful contracts.

“Employers must be careful to follow the definitions of: "employee", "employer", "conditions of service", and "contract of employment" as outlined in Section 2 of the Labour Law,” Ebanks told CNS. “An employer who hires or engages a worker, other than a properly licensed and documented sub-contractor, contractor, or consultant, will otherwise assume the responsibilities and liabilities of that person as an employee.”

He said the department has received complaints and confidential information where some employees are hiring employees, but are requiring those employees to cover their own Work Permits, Health Insurance, Pension, and also be deprived of overtime payments, public holiday pay, vacation entitlement and workplace injuries compensation.

“This is illegal, and will attract significant penalties with a successful prosecution,” Ebanks said adding that the most recent complaint was received by the department only on Monday.

Independent MLA Ezzard Miller said he too had received a number of complaints from his constituents who were struggling to find employment. He said Caymanians are being forced to act as sub-contractors and being told they must pay their own workplace insurance, health cover and pensions.

“This is exploitation pure and simple and the country’s contractors must start employing Caymanians directly as employees under lawful contracts in order to address the growing unemployment problem in particular among local young men,” Miller told CNS.
With a significant number of Caymanians employed in the construction industry, Miller said he was concerned that local workers were being pushed out of the sector in which they have traditionally worked so that major contractors can employ and exploit cheap labour via work-permits as overseas workers are far less likely to complain.


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Comments (15)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Government gives contracts to employers the require workers to pay their own Work Permit Fees, Health Insurance and Pension or their pension is not paid at all.




  2. Anonymous says:

    You think they are rogue now!

    wait till they start collecting the pay roll tax

    along with pensions and medical

  3. Anonymous says:

    "…the Department takes a dim view of employers who…"


    And that is all they do, "take a dim view".


    Enforcement? Against your cousin? Don't hold your breath.

    • Anonymous says:

      ‘Take a dim view’ That’s about all Mr. Ebanks and his cohorts can do – oh that and send nasty emails. S**t or get off the pot as my father used to say. Take some action or you will forever be remembered as someone who could only talk.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is more of the big boys getting their way. For years they have taken out work permits for people who they tell to go out and get jobs. They are cutting into paying licensed companies but no one cares or does anything. All anyone has to do is go on the big jobs run by the big companies – the dream teams – and check who they have roaming around. There are no immigration job checks anymore so anything goes. All everyone wants is CHEAP! Who gives a crap about a pensions, health, overtime, sick pay.

    This goverment will never do anything when some companies are involved with them.

    Good Luck.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Enough with the warnings Govt. past time to prosecute and fine those responsible for breaking the laws (from TOP to bottom) that's the only posible solution at this point.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am an owner of a construction company here in Grand Cayman. I follow the immigration and insurance requirements regarding my employees. This in turn causes me to lose bid after bid because I cannot compete with the prices my competition submits because they fly under the radar. We are the most skilled and hardest working team you will come across and yet we are constantly under cut by other "companies" or individuals looking to exploit their labour force. When will government/immigration open their eyes and represent the local, reliable, law abiding contractors?

  7. Anonymous says:

    The main problem and why it will never get fixed is the Caymanian immigration dept. will not and never will go against any Caymanian employer for anything.  Ever hear of that happening?  It is and will always be a part of Caymankind.  You can not fight Caymankind in Cayman.  It is too big and way too dug in. Stealing from employees is a way of of life here.  Your only choice is to quit.

  8. Anonymous (not verified) says:

    Hey Mario. Thank you for waking up. Now what about pretty much every other industry basking in a sea of illegal conduct with near absolute impunity for the better part of a decade? It’s not just construction you know. Dare you to ask immigration to refuse work permit renewals to businesses operating unlawfully. Not willing? Then go back to sleep.

  9. Peter Milburn says:

    I agree with the above statement and would hope that the Govt dept responsible for over seeing this will clamp down hard and levy heavy fines to those individuals that are responsible for this.Too many times ones sees these sort of things being "swept"under the carpet.Time for all that to stop.We have enough corruption in this country now without adding more to the fire.

  10. Angel of truth says:

    They will do nothing, because they are part of the problem.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This has been going on for years now. My husband work in the construction field for over 10 years and it has not stopped.  Workers have always been told that they have to pay for work permits and health insurance. This is automatically deducted from their pay, so they have no choice but be obligated to pay. Other issues are where workers are underpaid and not paid at all for work completed. Only to hear the "sad tails" of their employer crying of having no money and more bills to pay. But he can hope on a plane to a Cayman destination with ease and not pay his workers on weeks on week’s end.

    The way construction workers are treated is horrible and no one seems to care. Their work conditions are inhuman. Sometimes no water, basic safety equipment or proper tools. They are not paid overtime or double pay for Sunday and holiday work. If they work 7 hours on Sunday they are paid for 7 hours at their regular rates. There is no paid vacation or sick leave. You don’t work you don’t get paid regardless of the circumstances. This is across the board as well, for every contractor that my husband has worked for has done the same thing

    I pray that these matters are looked into and corrected soon. Skilled carpenters are paid $12-$14 dollars and labourers get from $8-$10. While greedy contractors get the big pay day and run up and done all day in AC running cars.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are so correct, this all started after Ivan when all those labourers were braught in.

      Also remember those employers some without Buisness and trade licence who hold WP's for people but do not have any work for them, they send them out to work illegally and demand money from them every week.

      They not only make them pay for their WP, they also charge them a fee $'s for getting the WP for them.

      And the authorities know all about these goingons,

    • Anonymous says:

      This is not specific to the construction industry either.  I have had a job almost a year and my employer has not provided me with a contract….i don't know what my "working conditions" are. Apart from the fact that I make $10 an hour, I don't know what my vacation entitlement is and if I want to terminate my employment, I do not know what the requirements are. I have requested this information many times, but it has not been forthcoming. But when you need a job…..what else can you do?

    • Anonymous says:

      I do agree with some of your points. I also work in the construction field and I do work for a honest contactor that pays for above minimun requirements for Health Insurance, not only for me but my family. They do offer me paid vacation, sick leave, pension etc. So not all cantractors can be generalized in that catagory.

      I do believe that you are right when you say that the construction industry is not fair. But I blame that on the government. They approve/remew permits without checking if the employer has been paying pension and insurance. Also a lot of contractors pay their workers cash which does not have a paper trace to prove that the employer is actually paying these requirements by law. But paying someone in cash is not against the Law so nothing cannot be done about that. I have heard a lot of workers complain to me about not getting paid by their bosses or that they have to come up with X amount of dollars a year to pay for their own work permits. Their choice is to pay or or not work, cause if they do not pay it someone else would be willing and take their position and pay.

      I also know for a fact that there are/were government employees which do the same thing. They take out permits for people under their "company" and lettheir emplyees pay their own work permits. How can this be fixed if the issues are also with the ones who are supposed to be protecting these workers.

      A carpenter, mason, laborer or any other emplyee does not have a rate per trade. It is sad but according to the minimum wage law their employer only has to pay them $5 an hour, which would be a shame!  

      It is hard for an honest contactor to get work when he will obviosly have higher rates to account for the fees he also has to pay. But unless government can do something to ensure this problem goes away there will always be contractors who underbid the honest contactor due the lack of fees that will come out of their pockets and still not treat their emplyees resonable.