Archive for June 5th, 2014

Popular teacher loses job over pregnancy

| 05/06/2014 | 311 Comments

(CNS): Parents concerned over the loss of a popular teacher at a local private school have started an on-line petition, hoping to change the school board’s position and persuade them to renew her contract. As of 4pm on Thursday afternoon 170 people had signed the petition asking that the Cayman Prep and High School board renew the contract of Bryony Platt, whom they described as an “a wonderful experienced teacher who has proven many times over that she is an asset to the school” for the 2014/15 academic year. CNS understands Platt, who has been at the school for several years, did not have her contract renewed as she is expecting a baby but is unmarried.

Cayman Prep’s board of governors issued a statement Thursday which said very little about the circumstances surrounding the decision. Platt is understood to be a well-liked, competent and experienced teacher who has done nothing in the course of her work for the board to decide she is no longer able to teach.

However, it appears that the board, which is appointed by the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and described as being “balanced by representatives” from the PTA, decided not to renew her contract purely as a result of her personal circumstances.

In its statement the school says nothing at all about Platt, her pregnancy or the reasons for not renewing her contract. It implies the PTA members on the board of governors are in support but other sources tell CNS this is not the case and some have resigned.

Although parents were reluctant to go on record about what has happened, it is understood that the wider PTA is not in support of the board’s decision, which some parents say undermines the values the school is meant to be promoting to students.

Along with the more than 170 signatures from parents and others supporting Platt, the petition has attracted a number of comments that reveal the depth of parents concerns about the message the decision has sent to students. Some note that they are also single parents and they have also raised further concerns about the prejudice of this decision by the board.

In its statement the school has said, “The Board and School recognizes that as in all partnerships there will be times when there are disagreements. The Board and School nevertheless remain committed to acting in good faith, and valuing difference. The Board provides its assurance that it will continue to uphold the School’s long standing history of providing high quality educational standards dedicated to the academic achievement and personal growth of our students in line with our Mission Statement and in accordance with its governance obligations.”

The full statement from the school is posted below but when CNS made further enquiries to the school director about the motivation for not renewing Platt’s contract, we were told, “It is highly unusual for such matters to be discussed with the press and the School or Board of Governors will not comment further on a matter which is confidential.”

Nevertheless, parents describe Platt as a “fantastic teacher” who has enriched their children’s lives and are hopeful that they can collect enough signatures to persuade the board to re-think its decision.

See petition page here and full statement from Cayman Prep below.


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CIB and Guy Harvey join forces for sharks

| 05/06/2014 | 0 Comments

CNS): The Cayman Islands Brewery is teaming up with local artist Guy Harvey and his Foundation to collaborate on a limited edition series to raise funds for his work in shark conservation. Harvey’s research focuses on tracking shark populations in the region to help conservation and protection efforts of declining populations. Sharks are important to the eco system which keeps the tourism product alive in the Cayman Islands and other Caribbean countries. Having established White Tip Lager, where money is donated from its sale to the DOE’s Marine Conservation Fund, the brewery is now increasing its efforts with this additional initiative.

“During the course of the year, we will be raising funds through a Limited Edition White Tip Lager designed by Guy Harvey with his artwork and also various merchandize that will be on sale such as limited edition hats, t-shirts and other novelties,” said Matthew Leslie from the Brewery.  “We continue to keep our commitment to the DOE and this will now become a second part of our conservation fundraising efforts”
Unveiled this week at the Brewery was a large artwork display on one of the tower tanks for all to see. 

The White Tip Logo now designed with the famous Guy Harvey signature and Oceanic White Tip Shark artwork is the first in a series of designs that will be used to raise funds and awareness. 

The retail products will include T-Shirts, Hats, Mugs, Glasses and a limited edition White Tip Lager can and bottle with the Guy Harvey artwork.  Part of the proceeds from the sale of these items will go to the Foundation and these funds will be used towards purchasing more GPS Tags and also towards prize money for the 2015 Kirk Slam Fishing Tournament. 

At the recent Kirk Slam Fishing Tournament teams were able to earn $1000 for every White Tip Shark tagged and released with GPS tracking devices provided by Guy Harvey and his research team.  A total of 10 sharks were tagged and released. This was hailed as a huge success and proved popular among the fishing teams taking part hence the decision to expand the plans.

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Minimum wage committee to research rate

| 05/06/2014 | 22 Comments

(CNS): A new committee has been formed by government that will make recommendations on what the minimum wage in the Cayman Islands should the government go ahead and implement the basic pay. The Committee is made up of twelve full members of employers, employees and independent members, including the Chairman, Lemuel Hurlston.  The committee has begun its work investigating the impact to the economy of establishing a minimum wage at various price points and make a recommendation based on their findings as to what is the most appropriate minimum wage or wages for the Cayman Islands.

“Working towards an aggressive timeline, the committee is hoping to present their report of recommendations to Cabinet by October 31st of this year,” government officials said in a release Thursday announcing the appointment of the committee.

The committee was put together following an invitation from the employment ministry to organisations, service clubs and individuals from both Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac to put forward nominations. The committee is also be supported by seven ex-officio members from the civil service, six who manage key subject areas directly affected by a minimum wage and a secretary to assist with administration.

“It was important for us to invite nominations from a wide array of organisations so that as many industries and jobs as possible could be represented as a minimum wage is going to affect everyone and every employer,” said the employment minister, Tara Rivers. “We wanted an equal representation of employers and employees on the committee, and also a committee that is gender-balanced and that recognises the contributions of and challenges related to young people.”

A private members motion brought by independent member Ezzard Miller in February this year, more than three months ago, calling for government to implement a minimum wage was rejected, despite that the PPM had stated clearly in its election manifesto that it would introduce a minimum wage as a priority. During the course of the debate on Miller’s motion, the employment minister revealed that she would be undertaking the research into the possible introduction of a basic wage but made no commitment to its implementation. Rivers raised a long list of objections and fears that have been put forward by opponents of the principle of a minimum wage for many years.

The full list of members of the committee is as follows:
Independent Representatives:
Lemuel Hurlston – Chairman
Nicolas Joseph – Caymanian Bar Association
Maria Zingapan – Director, Economics and Statistics Office
Annette Murphy – University College of the Cayman Islands

Employee Representatives:
Andrea Williams – Business and Professional Women’s Club
Stephen Tatum – Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Representative
Lauren Langlois – Female Youth Representative
Pierre Connolly – Male Youth Representative

Employer Representatives:
Ian Pairaudeau – Cayman Contractor’s Association
Woody Foster – Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce
Ahisha Bodden – Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals
Danielle Wolfe – Cayman Islands Tourism Association

Ex-Officio Members
Mario Ebanks – Director, Department of Labour and Pensions, or his designate
Adolphus Laidlow – Senior Economist, Economics and Statistics Office
Linda Evans – Chief Immigration Officer, Immigration Department, or her designate
Christen Suckoo – Deputy Chief Officer, MEE&GA (Ministry Liaison)
Philip Scott, Senior Policy Advisor Human Capital Development, MEE&GA
Tammy Ebanks, Senior Policy Officer (Gender Affairs), MEE&GA
Kimberly Kirkconnell – Policy Analyst, MEE&GA (Secretary)

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Footy fans heading to Brazil need their shots

| 05/06/2014 | 6 Comments

(CNS): The Public Health Department has said that residents heading to the World Cup this month should make sure they have upto date shots. “All residents of the Cayman Islands travelling to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, including delegation members and media personnel, should be fully vaccinated against measles and rubella prior to their travel” said Medical Officer of Health, Dr Kumar. “All vaccinations should be completed at least two weeks before travel. As we are now at the start of June, we are making a special call for those who intend to travel to this region and have not yet been vaccinated, to do so immediately.”

During the World Cup, it is estimated that over 600,000 fans from across the World will travel to join in events. Nineteen out of 32 of the countries participating in the World Cup had reported measles cases in 2013.  Officials are concerned that the easy access and frequency of air travel will put all non-immune persons at risk for infectious diseases and could re-introduce the viruses in the Americas.

All travelers to the World Cup over the age of 6 months are to be vaccinated against measles and rubella, preferably with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. 

In the Cayman Islands, two doses of MMR are customarily given at 15 months and again at 4-6 years. Travelers who are not up todate with their vaccines are at greater risk of contracting these diseases when in close contact with infected persons in countries and locations where the viruses still circulate.

The first sign of measles is usually a high fever which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus from a measles case. A runny nose and cough, along with red and watery eyes and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. This is followed by a rash on the face and upper neck, eventually reaching the hands and feet. Close contact with other people must be avoided for seven days following onset of rash. 

Travelers to Brazil are advised to contact the Public Health Clinic on 244-2648 or Faith Hospital on 948-2243 for an appointment, or to consult their physician to seek necessary vaccination and travel advisory. In the event they develop a rash and fever, they should contact a physician immediately and advise of their travel history.


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DMS USA seeks to block $177m RICO ‘shakedown’

| 05/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): DMS Management (USA) has taken legal action to halt what it calls “an 8 month barrage of extortionate threats” and to prevent the defendant, Steven J. Goodman, from filing a civil suit claiming $177 million in damages as the victim of racketeering. The civil action, filed in the Southern District of New York by Reed Smith LLP on behalf of DMS USA, refers to the threatened civil suit by Goodman, which asserts Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claims against DMS USA, as “a shakedown”. It also accuses him of targeting DMS USA, a marketing company which had no connection to the complaint, so that he could use the threat of RICO rather than sue its Cayman Islands-based affiliate company, DMS Offshore Investment Services, using the courts in Cayman, where if he lost he would be left facing a large tab in court costs. Read more on CNS Business

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Dart talks move forward

| 05/06/2014 | 48 Comments

(CNS): Following recent comments that no progress had been made between government and the Dart Group over the agreements the developer had made with the previous administration, the premier said Wednesday that a recent meeting between him and the Dart CEO had led to a better understanding on both sides. Alden McLaughlin gave no details of the advances made between the parties but said that he had received a letter from Dart, which he described as “very helpful”. He said he was optimistic that over the course of the next few weeks the government and the islands’ largest investor would be able to come to terms on which they could agree, but the premier was reluctant to say more as he said the understanding was still at risk.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly as he wrapped up the budget debate yesterday, McLaughlin said that since taking office, the PPM government had met with Dart around nine times with little progress being made on the outstanding negotiations in relation to the development of the Kimpton Hotel, the closure of the West Bay Road and the redevelopment of the Seven Mile Public Beach area. McLaughlin said that his team wanted to negotiate terms that would be more acceptable to the people of the Cayman Islands.

He said people were aware of the stumbling blocks and government had been careful about what it had said regarding the talks, as government believes the Dart Group is a major and important player in the Cayman economy, having invested millions of dollars. The premier told his parliamentary colleagues that there was every indication that the group wanted to invest more and, as a result, the government wanted to do all it could to partner with Dart to create opportunities.

At the recent meeting with the CEO of the Dart group, McLaughlin said, significant progress had been made and resulted in a better understanding and appreciation of what both sides require. McLaughlin told the LA that he had received a letter on Tuesday that had given him cause to be optimistic.

The premier added that it was important that things were not left hanging with respect to the previous agreements and said he wanted to encourage Dart to continue investment in the local economy.

Stating that he could not go into detail as it may all still fall apart again, he felt there had been more positive progress, and given his most recent statement that there was none, he wanted to indicate things had moved forward.

During the run up to the May 2013 election the PPM had campaigned on the basis that it wanted to renegotiate the terms of the agreements that had been made between the UDP government and Dart in connection with the deals known as the NRA agreement and the wider ForCayman Investment Alliance.

While in opposition the PPM had wanted to retain some form of access along the West Bay Road but following the election the new government said there was nothing it could do regarding the closure of the road but it was focusing on renegotiating the 50% accommodation tax concession, which Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts had described as unacceptable.

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Immigration: Carrot not stick

| 05/06/2014 | 111 Comments

(CNS): Premier Alden McLaughlin has signalled a move towards incentivizing employers to train and employ local people rather than forcing them, as he said governments have tried that for decades and it hasn’t worked. Although the premier has spoken about improving enforcement when it comes to checking that employers are not abusing the system, he has now signalled a new approach that will encourage rather than compel bosses to take on Caymanians. Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday evening as he wrapped up the Throne Speech, Policy Statement and Budget Address, he said government was working on a new accreditation system that he believed would have more success in seeing Caymanians replace permit holders.

The premier said he recognised that Cayman cannot be insular and restrictive in regard to immigration. He warned that there is a “tendency in tough times to want to force companies to employ locals and not allow any more permits”, but McLaughlin said he has spent a lot of time thinking about and observing the issues surrounding immigration and had concluded that it is not possible to compel companies to hire people that they don’t want to hire.

Given the amount of resources that would be required to enforce such a regime, he said it would be impossible to make it work. He said successive governments have tried to drive employers to employ and train local people instead of recruiting overseas by enforcement but it has not worked. McLaughlin said he believed government needs to incentivize bosses to train and hire as we have not succeeded in achieving more opportunities for locals by force for over 40 years.

“In my view it is never going to work,” he said as he pointed to the new initiative he hoped to get underway this year. He said he wanted to breathe new life into an accreditation scheme which had been worked on during the 2005-2009 PPM administration.

Although he did not spell out the details of the proposals, the premier said a lot of work had been done on this in the past. He said his ministry was now looking at how it can implement an accreditation scheme that would reward employers who have high levels of local employees in the forthcoming amendments, as an incentive rather than continuing down the road of compulsion.

Following the first phase of immigration changes, the premier had signalled an intention to police the workplacemore closely and ensure bosses were complying with the immigration law and that what they said on business staffing plans and other submissions to government regarding their employees and training of local workers was accurate. He had announced financial provision for more front line immigration enforcement officers who would make workplace inspections. McLaughlin did not say if those plans had been abandoned, given the shift to a carrot rather than a stick approach in efforts to persuade employers to taken on train, develop and promote local workers.

McLaughlin stated that phase two of the changes to the immigration law will focus on the work-permit system and the way that the application process is administered. The premier also raised the issue of finger-printing as an extra aide to border security and said consideration was being given to begin creating a data base, starting with permit holders.

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Budget passes through House in absence of opposition

| 05/06/2014 | 23 Comments

(CNS): Premier Alden McLaughlin concluded his closing remarks on the budget speech around 6:30 on Wednesday evening but there were no members of the opposition benches in the House when the budget was put to the vote. Although the leader of the opposition, Mckeeva Bush, had notified the House of his absence due to a medical appointment overseas, the rest of the opposition benches left the parliament before the proceedings had been concluded. Most government members were there to offer support for the budget, though Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell had also sent word that he was unable to attend the meeting.

The budget passed with eleven ‘ayes’ from the government benches and recorded six absentee members. The meeting was then adjourned until the Finance Committee proceedings, which are expected to begin at 10am Thursday.

All members of the LA except for the opposition member for West Bay, Captain Eugene Ebanks, made a contribution to the debate, with minsters using their two hours to update on their areas of responsibility. Other members offered a mix of support for the budget as well as raising their own questions or concerns.

The MLAs will now examine the line items of the appropriations bill ministry by ministry to see what government will be spending its more than half billion of operating expenses on and why.

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