BVI News

Locals should lose their jobs last if lay-offs are happening — Wheatley

Employers in the British Virgin Islands are being told that if the need arises to lay-off staff to keep their businesses afloat during the COVID-19 crisis, BVIslanders and Belongers should be last to lose their jobs.

That advice is coming from Labour Minister Vincent Wheatley who was speaking in the House of Assembly on Monday, June 8. 

His comments were made against the backdrop that he has received multiple complaints indicating that locals were being targeted when lay-offs are being done.

He said: “[There are] some really good employers in this country who do well by their staff. They’re offering them zero-interest loans [and] shopping vouchers. But then it got a next set who are using this COVID-19 to abuse their workers. And, sometimes they are choosing the Belongers first to abuse! 

“I remember years ago when you see a job advertising in the paper you see ‘BVIslander’ and ‘Belonger’ first or preferred. Now, they turn that around. When they come to the abuse of people, its BVIslanders and Belongers first.”

He said the proper thing for employers to do is to have a staff meeting and inform their employees of the decisions of the company.

“We expect you to not lay off Belongers and BVIslanders first. We expect you to lay them off last,” Wheatley stated, adding that the employers in questions are creating “excuses” to justify their actions.

Responding to complaint in the workplace

Wheatley said he decided to respond to complaints by showing up at a particular workplace last Thursday.

He said that upon his arrival, he was ‘appalled’ by what he saw. Wheatley said he witnessed employees who were seeking some ‘documentation’ being barred from entering the establishment in question.

The minister did not go into detail but said he tried to seek an audience with the manager of the company but was met with ‘disrespect’ instead.

“I called, the manager didn’t answer the phone. I WhatsApp, the manager didn’t return the WhatsApp,” Wheatley recalled.

He said he visited the establishment with a team from the Labour Department, including the Labour Commissioner, and asked to see the manager. 

The minister said they waited for some time but eventually left without seeing the manager who was inside the building. 

“I said: ‘this is something else’ — the level of disrespect! But you cannot be here as an investor and think you can do as you want because we need you and we won’t survive without your presence. I find that totally, totally unacceptable. I mean if you can disrespect me as a minister of government, an elected representative, I could imagine the poor employees what they going through. And I was so glad I went because you hear stories all the time,” Wheatley stated.

He further assured the House of Assembly that he will be making follow-ups.

“I could never dreamed that this could happen in my BVI. This was an eye-opener for me and I have to go and really rethink how we go about doing business in this country,” he stated.

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55 Comments

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  1. Fed Up With Legal Economic Abuses says:

    This is good PR sir, but is it enforceable? One would bet not. Further, government, through legislation has a dismal to non-existent record on looking out, supporting, defending and protecting its people from economic, income, promotion, hiring and firing and other labour codes abusses.

    For example, at this very moment, the leading supermarket chain here has used the current pandemic as an excuse to reduce it cashiers and lower staff to five (5) hours a day.

    Meanwhiel, those establishments have not lose one penny in sales or profits. Is that fair sir? does your staff and government have any power and say in such gross abuse of labour of our human beings, while they rob our services and extort of meager wages through excessive pricing and gouging?

    Can any fairness be brought to bear on the business of this territory on behalf of the labour and wealth producers?

    Like 18
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    • 2030 says:

      Raping the poor, as usual. Taking advantage of the fact that people cannot go STT and shop. As soon as the borders open to so, I would boycott business with them for a minimum of 1 year. I can do too.

      Like 8
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      • Hmmmm says:

        Why lay-off the locals last? They are the worst workers. Lazy and don’t show up half the time. Do what all businesses do. Keep the best employees and get rid of the worst whomever they may be.

        Like 23
        Dislike 8
        • @Hmmmm says:

          I am sure that which ever country you have come from, that the government of that country has policies in place to protect the nationals of that country. Then you might be pleased to say that you come from right here – if that is the case, shame on you. Where else can locals or BVIslanders go and expect to get a fair chance at employment? It is high time that the Government of the BVI stand up for the people of the BVI, regardless of who says what.

          Like 5
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        • Gran Puba says:

          You maybe true with what you say but locals are who put the ministers in a job so of course they have to look out for locals lazy or not.

          Like 13
    • true says:

      Its is enforceable as its written on the Labour code that during layoffs ass BVIslanders must be the last to go so yes its very enforcable also they can revoke a Trade license very easily. Not renew work permits for the company, so many ways to deal with this person and company.

      The supermarket can do as it sees fit as long as the last person to lose their job are BVIslanders. These are businesses that have lost money as no one is spending friviously as they did before, all the restaurants that can’t open to feed tourists are these big supermarkets main business not the casual shopper.

      You do not produce wealth if you stack a supermarket shelf or cash at till the wealth is created by the produce on the shelf.

      Like 5
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    • Rubber Duck says:

      Once the government have decided that people are entitled to work in the BVI through belongership, work permit, work permit exemption or residence, then employers should treat all those workers equally. That is natural justice and humanity.

  2. Why says:

    In this precarious business environment the firms retain the most qualified, competent and productive employees. Usually the least qualified, competent and productive employees are laid off first.

    Like 32
  3. Fuel to the fire says:

    Good job Wheatley…. why don’t you first resolve an issue before making such statements publicly.

    This is only fuel to the fire.

    A responsible minister should know better.

    Like 12
    Dislike 11
    • Lost says:

      What i see happening in the bvi is very troubling to me. I belive within the next 30 to 40 yrs salt island would be to big to hold the bvi lander’s. You would not be able to find a dozen indigenous bvi lander’s. I am an expat living here for over 30 yrs and i am appalled to see the speed that we expatriates are taking over this little island. And there is no slowing down so i would not even mention stopping. Why does the present and past governments allowing the taking over of this island by expatriates???. We are constantly talking about development but who are we really developing this country for?? Lets slow down and put your people first otherwise your people would vanish and in record time. Stop the issuing of new work permits immediately. Control what you have now. Every little bar open up is six to eight expats is coming in working half naked because the men around are taking over by lust and here comes the expatriates women with no class only with the mentality of making a quick buck. This is facts not what i heard is what i see with my own eyes. This little island is one of the major player in the eastern Caribbean when it comes to human trafficking. This is a fact . I want this government to tackle this matter immediately. I stop by a bar in baughers bay recently to have a drink and within 2 mins three young women half naked was massaging me . Is this kind of work you are giving out work permit for?? What i think governments are doing is satisfying the appetite of some misguided and sinful men and women. Come on minister of labour stop the friendly talk and act as a man should. Your at large representative in Virgin Gorda need to really have a talk with you and also ms decastro. I was thinking that they are two of our ladies that would make a difference but so far am not seeing or hearing them. Mr fahie is the leader yes but without you guys and especially the four at large representatives the government cannot function without them . So they to have a big say. Come on minister of labour wake up. Those businesses don’t have anywhere to run to they have to follow the rules and regulations . Some commenter’s would say oh they can close down or up. But they cannot because most of them do not have enough to live from and where else in this
      World is better to do business than the bvi.A place that you allowed them to come and do what they please. I know the sex trade is a thriving business in the bvi and a few other Caribbean countries but it is also what is called human trafficking. Please overhaul labour and immigration immediately.

      Like 16
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      • @ Lost says:

        Facts, truths and more facts.

        It is your kind and mentality we welcome with open arms into the BVI.

        Indeed, our leaders have long since been aware of the changing population of locals vs expat, but could care less.

        The changing factor in their shift away from aring is the influx of huge amounts of money and their greed to have it.

        Sadly, unlike NY and the rest of Americ, the BVI cannot sustain such open immigration with diasterous consequeces to its local population, culture, heritage and people.

        Hoping the will read your commentary and begin to live, eat and sleep with what you have delivered.

        I know that the Hon. Shereen is warrior for the local, and for the maintaining of control for and by locals. Can’t say i am isure about the others.

        Our demise began i 1960 or there about and its only picked intensity and speed.

        God help theses Virgin Islands and there people.

        For sure, none will invade Salt or Coop and make us second class citizens there.

        Like 12
        Dislike 1
        • Just saying says:

          I note your indication that the BVI’s “demise started in 1960 or there”, which is synonymous with the start of persons immigrating to the BVI, particularly from neighbouring caribbean islands. Let me point out as well that it is further synonymous with the start of significant growth and development in the socio-economic status of the BVI which has resulted in the standard of living that is enjoyed in the BVI today. What I am saying is that just like the US, immigration has been a net positive to the BVI. It brought new knowledge, skills and a needed labour force. Most of us who went to the BVI High School did so under the stewardship of immigrant teachers that set the foundation for us accessing higher education. Indeed immigration has transformed the BVI from a small backward fishing and agricultural economy to a modern emerging economy with one of the highest per capita incomes in the region. Are there challenges with the immigrants and the immigration system? Certainly there are but let us not because of some economic challenges faced now disenfranchise the immigrants, particularly our caribbean brothers and sisters. Rather let us band together as one people and put our collective resources, intellect and abilities to work for the continued upward transformation of our beloved BVI. Let us not turn on each other. Let us not be the ones to KNEEL ON OUR OWN BLACK BROTHERS’ AND SISTERS’ NECKS.

          Like 14
          • @ Just Saying says:

            You have missed my perspective completely. I am do smart nd knwledgable to know that what you posted is correct.

            You just concluded to hastly without deeper thought.

            Further, my view had nor has anything to do with our eastern or southern brothers and sisters migrating here seeking an opportunity for an improved life.

            Many to most of my past family members, known today as great and great great relatives, [my great aunt just died in DR a few years ago at a 103years old] migrated around the world to seek a better life.

            I would only be an uniformed hypocrite if i were treat any brother or sister that landed on thses shores seeking the same as my now ancestors did before i was even born.

            After freedom from violent inhukane bondage, now ancestors from VG, Ane, JVD, Tola to Salt, Cooper, Peer and Norman left to find the same life denied to them for centuries. So no hypocrit a i.

            Dig an comprehend more deeply before criticising, or at least frome your prose with a larger and more diverse audiece in mind..

            Last, I am not one who hates or despise my own people. I love me my people!
            .
            Get that straight conflict maker

            Like 5
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          • Additionally says:

            It does not matter who choose to live in BVI…as long as we who have been here for generation and indenify ourselves as locals continue to make and enforce the rules in our interest.

            Hoping this and the other OP will be posted, as they both are positive and informative contributing factors to the discussion.

            Like 3
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      • indigenous bvi lander???? says:

        The arawaks and the carib indians gone a long time now – there are no indigenous persons in the BVI.

        Like 19
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      • Forward ever Backward never says:

        @Lost
        You are not an expatriate.

      • Omg says:

        THERE ARE NO INDIGENOUS BVISLANDERS. YOU ARE SQUATTERS.

      • Right Sed Fred says:

        Which bar in Baughers Bay? I wan go.

        Like 4
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  4. pure lip service says:

    We need a serious minister of labour like a conrad maduro or a julian fraser not this joker that we have there now.

    Like 3
    Dislike 15
  5. Mad Max says:

    Name names. Which company did this? How was it resolved? Please complete the facts otherwise it’s just talk.

    Like 10
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  6. Hmmmm says:

    Why this man don’t go have a seat. So tell me, i have a company with two employees one expat and the other is local. The local is underperforming; are you proposing that i should keep the underperforming local and let go the expat that is contributing to the growth of my company?

    Keep it up Hon. This type of mentality will certain kill the BVI’s ability to innovate and its potential to develop.

    Like 30
    Dislike 5
    • 2030 says:

      You and I know that is the excuse you all like to come with. The expat performing and not the local. But you well know too that one reason the expat works 2.5 hours his required work hours is that you employers use immigration and labor against the expat – you abuse and slave the expat because they are totally dependent on you to eat. You use fear mongering. You cannot do that with the locals.

      Some BVI employers treat expats no different from the way USA employers treat the Mexicans and other immigrants who are between the Devil and the deep blue sea.

      Not saying that there are no lazy locals, some of whom today were past expats.

      Like 9
      Dislike 7
  7. Surprised says:

    Mr minister sometimes you have to let’s these people know that you have the handle and the blade and if y let this go your sending a message that they don’t to adhere to anything that government say.

    Like 1
    Dislike 1
  8. Ability and productivity says:

    Business decisions need to be based on the productivity of the employee. Nothing else.

    Otherwise you hinder the viability of your business.

    Like 14
    • Bulls+++ says:

      Human lives, their sanctity and survivability and growth come first, business second.

      Where there are no people to support a business, business does not exist. People make businesses profitable, not the other way around, cart before donkey mentality.

      Therefore, people must always have first consideration by business to ensure its success.

      When business is viewed as a seperate entity from or have lost touch with the human and humaity, it is not a business, but a demon.

      Last, every situation has its own spcific circumstances and uniqie callenges.

      The BVI local to expat ratio is one of them that is unique and needs to be addressed and yesterday. Indeed, protections, who like them or not, must be put in place to protect the local people, their survivability and control of their own destiny.

      Who of you would want to tell Butch grand children that your grand children have more power and control than them in a land where Butch roots have been existing centuries deep?

      Like 9
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  9. strupes says:

    THIS GUY IS TOO SOFT FOR THIS MINISTRY

    Like 2
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  10. Yes says:

    Check the moo****s first on your list

  11. Smh says:

    Im local and this is nonsense, people should only lose their job if their position isn’t needed at the time.

    Like 12
    Dislike 1
  12. Ausar says:

    This is EXACTLY the type of leadership needed, during these very serious times!

    Imagine, Belongers, going home first, in the country of their birth!

    And the IMPORTED foreigners, are allowed to remain!

    It is they, that should be the FIRST to leave the country, until normal work resumes!

    We are counting on you, Honourable Wheatley, to create a merit system of grading,of all employers in the country, published in the Gazette, whereby prospective workers, are informed of the merits and non-merits of working for such companies!

    I thank you, Sir!

    Signed: Ausar

    Like 8
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  13. Father Time says:

    I have to wonder if these ministers listen to the words coming out of their own mouths. Do you not understand how problematic this is?

    Like 7
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  14. The Nation says:

    Mr. Minister…it doesn’t work like that in the law…it would depend on tenure of the employees…you can’t expect that between an expat who been working there for 15 years and a local who come 1 year ago that the local would not lose his job…such a decision would not make commercial sense first of all…it would create a greater financial obligation on the employer/business…please weight the Government’s policy with commercial common sense.

    Like 12
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    • Lost says:

      This is the exact reason THE NATION that the labour department under the minister needs to bring new work permit under control and even some renewals. I know for a fact that many are sponsored by locals here that never had a job for the people that they are sponsoring. And i mean never had a job for them but sponsor because of friend or girlfriend or boyfriend. These are some of the major problem why bvi lander’s are catching hell while expats like myself have a daily job going to work from house to house not paying a cent in tax social security and nhi. This country that i now called home cannot carry the weight of expatriates anymore. Its to heavy a burden. I want all of us to get along but the labour department and the minister created this situation. Look so long the premier talk about reform in labour and immigration. Where is the reform?? Put a time limit on work permits please.bvi lander’s should only be catching hell in this island only if they choose to. Not because of some business owners who think this island cannot do without them. This island can do without us. Sometimes i am hurt to see what this place is allowed to come to all in the name of development for expats. Look what an expat business owner is doing changing the vehicles coming into this territory from left hand drive to right hand drive.most other Caribbean islands ban vehicles older than 10 yrs old .look the old vehicles that are coming in .my gosh. Everybody is doing what they want.ms decastro and mrs flax Charles please stand up for sometime. Me Neville smith stand up for something otherwise you would fall for everything. Look at sex shops and yes sex shops because you can go to them and buy vigina some for as low as 30 bucks.the bvi was never this way.has the commissioner of police and the labour minister fall asleep. Who is giving out the work permits?? The labour commissioner is a decent lady and how can you sit back and allowed these work permits to be issued?? All around road town sea cows bay east end is sex shops . Are we such hungry people for flesh?? Talk about traffic laws well only if you get in an accident they may apply. Stop the importation of people immediately. I know the virus has cause a pause but it is going to continue very soon. So many small contractors not working why?? Because since hurricane irma the plane load of workers that came in most are still here working for very low wages many without sponsers.come on minister look out for your people first we come after.this is their land how can we come and dictate everything for them. This is not America jack.

      Like 7
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  15. Me says:

    If u’ve this much info.why don’t u act.Tell these employers what time it is let we the people know who the culprits are.Do ur job identify these evildoers

  16. Anonymous says:

    Its scary to hear a person in power talking like this. like someone else wrote earlier exactly what i was thinking, we keep good workers according to their performance on the job, not according to where they are from or race or gender.

    Like 15
    Dislike 1
  17. No nonsense says:

    He there talking pxxx and port giving less hours than the law requires and hiring people in different areas!! Ha ha ha!!

  18. LOL says:

    This is so funny! You can always tell the politicians who worked for Government all their lives and never owned/managed a proper business so they always talk out of their a**es. I think what the Minister should be saying is where at all possible, businesses should try and keep locals employed, we get that locals come first in any country. However, to make such a boasting statement as if it should be done by any means necessary is extremely short-sighted and selfish! A business is designed to make money and when issues like COVID-19 arrives and start to affect functionality and profitability, nationality is the last thing that the business owners/managers are thinking about.

    On the subject of being disrespected, obviously I wasn’t there so don’t know the entire story but always remember respect is a two-way street and you shouldn’t think that because you’re the Minister for Labour that you can bully business people into doing what you want them to do. This Government is becoming more and more scarier by the week and I am almost afraid to ask what’s next. Thread carefully Hon. Wheatley, thread carefully!!

    Like 11
  19. Irony says:

    This Minister is talking when his Government has made so many locals jobless because of politics?

    Like 5
    Dislike 2
  20. bellfoot Pants says:

    Yes, your Govt. should not force them (BVI Islanders) out neither.

    Like 2
    Dislike 1
  21. Keep it up says:

    Many other countries are up and coming. Competition is stiff… keep it up and see if those businesses dont start running. The US dollars in universal

    • Crazy says:

      These people have no shame! This government have removed qualified locals from senior positions in government and on boards and replaced them with totally incompetent and unqualified supporters and have the gaul to come out talking about private businesses as if they care about locals? The people will not remain blind and silent for much longer!

      Like 7
      Dislike 2
  22. Nationalist says:

    These expatriates need to go home they never should get first preference premiere no permit should be renewed or should be let into the island

    Like 3
    Dislike 9
  23. Joysmoke says:

    Some many businesses what to use this to time to make more money one construction company cut there employees salaries at 30% percent with out having a meeting with the employees

  24. VG says:

    Come on Vincent. You have to check things out before you make these public statements.

    Like 2
    Dislike 1
  25. Nothing says:

    This is been happening all the time in Tortola I have been working in a restaurant and they work belongers and bvilsander very hard. Its about time

  26. Reply to Hmmmm says:

    Everyone is intitled to their opinion yes. However, not ALL BVIslanders are like as you described. Stop classing everyone as the same because its not true. I’m a harder working young lady & have been working with the same company for 20 years(I’m a local too). I go above & beyond for my job…My employer is very happy with me too.
    Every country have good & bad people, harder working & lazy people too not just the BVI.

  27. John poo says:

    This suggestion is ridiculous, what business would want get rid of your best hard working employee and keep a lazy showing up late to be last to lay off. Come on man

  28. Confused says:

    When terminating someone it should be based on job performance and not status. The weakest employee should be terminated first. Some of us down island people help put these government officials in power and now listen to the things that are being said. Shame on you Butch.

  29. Preasure buss pipe says:

    See what you locals getting for being nice and setting up expats. Expats have money and power now we going put on the preasure.

    • My my says:

      I don’t know why u guys always thinking like that and local don’t really keep some jobs ,coming on we all need to think more positive man at the end of the day we are not from here and the job will be yours if ur qualified but sometime u get the and u want to talk to the boss how u feel and turn up to work wear anything u want and get pay and don’t turn up to work the next day ,some of u don’t take ur jobs serious because guess what ur from here.

  30. Hmmm says:

    What if the local person is the weakest on the team.the company should be able to determining that not ur guys.

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