GEORGE TOWN, CAYMAN ISLANDS — As the nation prepares to allow for expanded tourist arrivals come October, Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan is urging unemployed residents to get back into the labour market.
Although the government has been providing stipends to tourism workers who lost jobs as a result of the industry’s shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryan highlighted that those funds will end eventually and citizens need to be able to provide for themselves when that time comes.
“Our indication was that in October, we’re starting to reopen. That means businesses are starting to plan to give people jobs, and they’re going to start doing that hiring before the 14th. So, the whole month of October there’s supposed to be jobs being filled up,” the minister said.
He added, “If you’re receiving the stipend, if you don’t have any job at this particular point and we’re going to a reopening and have tourists in, I want to ensure that you are out there looking for work. We’ve been working with CITA (Cayman Islands Tourism Association), with all the stakeholders within the industry, to [tell] us what jobs would you need to be filled…because we want to make sure industry is doing their part to get Caymanians back to work before we start considering any work permits.”
Bryan addressed controversy surrounding the stipend, admitting his previous suggestion that the government could soon permanently cease the payments was a “scare tactic” to get unemployed Caymanians to start looking for work immediately.
“What I found, based on the research — and this is happening globally, is that persons, when they’re receiving moneys, they’re just reluctant to go find work,” Bryan said.
He added, “Ultimately, my strategy for forcing them to go out and find work has been depleted now, but the thinking is they need to know that eventually this money is going to stop and you need to find work. So, I’m here fighting on your behalf; now you go and sign up with work.
“I’ve told CITA and the industry, ‘You better highlight those jobs for my people and send them down to work so our department of work can match up the Caymanians with those jobs.’ That’s where we’re at with respect to this battle of labour.”
Bryan underscored that the government is “here to protect people” but also “give you the opportunities to make sure you go and find them”.