April 21, 2021

The Editor Speaks: The Chamber is NOT the Government

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Colin Wilsonweb2I have spoken before about my disillusion and distrust of the motives of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce. They should concentrate on the welfare of their members and not appoint blatant political motivated presidents.

The last two, Johann Moxam and Barry Bodden made no attempt to disguise their feelings and motives that they were not going to work with the Progressives government no matter what they did, except perhaps the Cruise Terminal that was also part of the last government’s plans.

I have to admire the patience of both Premier Alden McLaughlin and Employment Minister, Tara Rivers, in having had to deal with the uncooperative Chamber and then listened to their distortions contained in their presidents’ speeches at the AGM.

Rivers has shown up the lie from Moxam that the government were unwilling to engage with the Chamber in relation with the draft Labour Relations Bill when it was the Chamber that did not provide their promised update to the draft proposal they had committed themselves to.

Then Barry Bodden makes the same claim.

Of course employment is the Achilles Heel in the Progressive’s government’s term of office and this is where the Chamber’s political tactics have come to the fore.

“Quite frankly, I was surprised and deeply disappointed to learn of these and other public utterances [re government’s unwillingness to consult with the Chamber on the draft Labour Relations Bill, 2015] reported to be made by Mr. Bodden at the Chamber AGM and to the wider community during recent media appearances, as these claims are simply not true,” said Minister of Employment Honourable Tara Rivers. “In fact, for the past two years, since 10 January 2014, I have personally met and attempted to engage with the relevant Chamber Presidents of the day, representatives of the Chamber Council and the Chamber CEO on four separate occasions to date, the most recent being 3 February 2016. There have also been numerous other meetings and communications between staff of the Ministry and the Chamber dating as far back as at least September 2013, just over 3 months into the new Government’s term in office.”

“The Ministry has given the Chamber ample opportunity over the past two years to meaningfully engage by specifically asking them to assist with developing and driving targeted employment and training programmes that would meet the needs of their Members and ensure that jobs are more accessible to the local Caymanian population,” stated Minister Rivers. “Unfortunately, to date they have not delivered on their promises to help the Government.”
“It is now time for the Chamber to deliver on its stated desire for and commitment to a true partnership with the Government in order to assist in addressing the employment concerns in a way that will benefit both employers and employees. However, if the organisation is unable or ill-equipped to fulfill its promises, then it is incumbent upon the leadership to make this known so that the Ministry and the Government can continue to press ahead and make successful inroads and partnerships directly with key industry representatives as we have been doing since taking office.”

“I strongly refute the claims made by the outgoing Chamber President regarding the lack of engagement with respect to the Labour Relations Bill, 2015. I, along with members of the Ministry and DLP, have always made ourselves available for dialogue with the Chamber and its members,” she declared. “Mr. Bodden’s assertion that an amended Bill has been presented to Caucus is an inaccurate one. What is particularly troubling is that apparently this misconception was corrected by certain members of the Government in a separate discussion held with the Chamber CEO days prior to the Chamber AGM. Yet the wrong message was still communicated to the Chamber membership.”

Well said Minister Rivers.

And she then diplomatically and sensibly offered the olive branch – or at least a leaf:

However, the Minister says she remains optimistic. “I am hopeful that after this week’s meeting, the new Council is prepared to make good on the Chamber’s offer to help the Government deliver on the goal of developing meaningful employment programmes that will benefit the business community, and the Caymanian people to access the real job opportunities available in the local labour market.”

She signed off in her Press Release:

“The Ministry, and indeed the Government, recognises the important role that the Chamber of Commerce plays as an advocate for the business community and employers that make up its membership. However, I want to make it abundantly clear that the Chamber will not dictate the consultation or revision process for these Bills. The Government does not answer to the Chamber Council; the Government answers to the people that we were elected to serve.”

Quite right. The Chamber is NOT the government and their past two presidents have forgotten not all their members are UDP sympathisers.

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