Labour ministry investing in multimillion-dollar online work permit system
THE labour ministry is pushing to replace its heavily paper-dependent work permit system with a US$927,000 web-based, mobile-friendly work permit and skills certificate management system by year end.
Portfolio Minister Karl Samuda made the announcement in his 2023/24 sectoral speech in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
He said the current legacy system is inefficient, taking up to eight weeks to process applications. “The new system will facilitate investment in identified areas of need since it will be informed by labour market intelligence, and it will facilitate the complete re-engineering of our work permit business process,” he outlined.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security processed 4,855 work permit applications in the past year, he advised. Of those, 843 were new applicants, and 2,246 were renewals. Of the remaining 766 applications, 599 were for work permit exemptions; 167 for marriage exemptions; 187 CSME (Caribbean Single Market and Economy) skills certificates, and 11 were rights of establishment applications. He pointed out that the long wait times continues to be of concern.
Meanwhile, Samuda noted that the country experienced relatively turbulent industrial relations during 2022/23, but that the ministry has been behind the scenes resolving the issues that have been brought before it for intervention, such as the labour issues concerning the National Water Commission, the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, the National Housing Trust, and the Jamaica Teachers’ Association.
He further stressed that the ministry cannot randomly refer matters to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT).
“Only in law the minister can refer a matter to the IDT. And that matter can’t be done unilaterally and willy nilly. Thereafter, we have nothing to do with the matter. We can’t talk to anybody on the disputes tribunal. So this speculation that I must do something, I must send it to the disputes tribunal – it cannot be done. I have no locus standi in the matter,” he stated.
Samuda noted that as a result of issues affecting the private security industry being brought into sharp focus this year, there is now a greater level of stability and structure in the sector. “There are issues, and there will be issues going forward, but it is now more stable, with a better understanding and a better relationship all around,” he noted.
Noting the disquiet that remains within some security companies over new contract arrangements, he said the ministry will follow through to ensure that all complaints are adequately addressed.
He said given the unprecedented demand for industrial relations and related services, the ministry has responded by revisiting the existing structure in order to ensure it is more responsive and efficient in providing support to both workers and employers.
“This move also supports the planned expansion of the general compliance inspectorate to ensure adherence to the decent work agenda in Jamaica,” he said.
In the meantime, he advised that further drafting instructions have been issued, for the long-awaited new Occupational Safety and Health Bill, which is now in first draft stage. The minister stressed that the Bill is a technical and knotty piece of legislation, which will need consensus to move forward.
Additionally, amendments are to come for the national minimum wage act and minimum wage order, as well as the Employment Agencies Regulation Act.
The latter will give full effect to the standards established under international conventions, to ensure employment protection for seafarers, while the national minimum wage bill and order, will seek to secure compliance with international conventions, and strengthen the protection of domestic workers.