Fri | Jul 10, 2020

Jamaicans complain of abuse in Bermuda

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2009 | 3:26 PM

Labour and Immigration Minister David Burch has said Bermuda is becoming known as the \"last slave frontier\" in Jamaica because of how badly its citizens are treated when they come here to work.

He claimed Jamaican employers were the worst offenders.

\"Adult bullying is alive and well in Bermuda. The level and severity of the complaints are so distressing that I can only imagine the nightmare the recipients of such abuse are living under,\" Burch told a news conference on Tuesday.

Nine companies - mainly construction firms and retail outlets, including the hair salons - accused of abusing their foreign employees, have been told they will get no more work permits issued unless they clean up their act.

Burch, a former commanding officer of the part-time Bermuda Regiment, told the media that a flood of guest workers had complained about abuse ranging from intimidation to pay as low as US$8 an hour after he urged victims to come forward in January.

Burch said the majority of complaints so far were from blue-collar workers and claimed Jamaican employers with Bermudian status (citizenship) were the \"greatest offenders\".

\"I will not continue to issue work permits to offending companies so that they can continue to discriminate against their own countrymen, especially since they don\'t go home and report that a Jamaican is treating them bad in Bermuda. No, the story back home is that they are being treated badly in Bermuda,\" he said.

He said two hairdressing salons were recruiting Jamaicans on three-month temporary work permits and firing them before the permits expired and sending them home.

Burch added: \"Employee ill treatment is not exclusive to Jamaican nationals. But this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated against any worker in this country, be they Bermudian or a guest worker.\"

Burch said he had no idea his public call to guest workers to report abuse -verbal, non-verbal, psychological, physical, sexual or emotional - or a subsequent meeting with members of the Jamaican community would prompt such a response.

“Within one week over a dozen complaints were lodged, ranging from ill-treatment of workers to non-payment of salaries, no medical insurance and no social insurance, in spite of the fact that money for these expenses was deducted from the employees\' pay. Expatriate workers account for more than 10,000 of Bermuda\'s 40,000-strong workforce.