BVI News

Thomas slams Labour Department over work permit hurdles

A local business owner has accused the Labour Department staff of acting outside their roles and frustrating the work permit process.

Michael Thomas, Managing Director at Clarence Thomas Ltd, described routine instances in which his company confronted Labour Department staff over work permit renewals and approvals.

According to Thomas, he continues to fight the Labour Department on basic issues. “I have a problem with Labour… because I think that some of the people in the Labour Department are basically trying to do what they want to do and want to interpret the laws the way they want to interpret it,” Thomas said.

Thomas told the Talking Points radio show that he is a “BVIslander first” and believes in protecting his people first. However, he also said that he needs to be able to bring in people from outside the BVI to do the work that needs to get done.

Thomas said his company employs people from around the world, including many BVIslanders and Belongers. However, the business owner said the Labour Department is making it difficult for him to grow his business. “And not understanding that for my business to succeed, for me to continue paying the taxes that I keep paying in this country, for me to continue employing the people I employ in this country, I need the ability to be able to bring people into the country to work.”

Thomas described a recent case in which the Labour Department refused to renew the work permit of an employee who had been with the company for more than four years and forced them to pay for additional time at the Immigration Department. Thomas said the reason given was that his Human Resources Manager did not have the authority to sign off on the renewal. “I’m like, what kind of ignorance is this?” Thomas asked.

He added that the Labour Department is not being helpful in developing the workforce. “They talk about workforce development. How are you helping me to develop my business when you’ve given me more stress and trouble?” Thomas asked.

“We’re either going to get people in here to do the work that needs to get done, or we need to hold our people accountable. We’ve got to stop treating this country like it’s yours. That’s not your department. You have a job to do. If the law says do X, then do that,” Thomas said.


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  1. The Truth says:

    Well said Mike! You are absolutely right to raise this!

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  2. Facts! says:

    Policy over law – it is how this place continues to operate. Little dictators deciding for everyone based on their individual interpretation, on that particular day, that varies with any particular person. Then those ‘policies’ are applied discriminately depending on what side of the bed that particular civil servant wakes up on, or what kind of person sits/stands in front of those wannabe dictator that particular day!

    Immigration is no better than Labour. Family members calling in to have their competitors work permits denied, etc. … it is beyond pathetic!

    Where else in the world can the [head] of immigration allegedly own an illegal strip club business while judging everyone else’s applications at their discretion?

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  3. Well Said Mr. Thomas says:

    Too many personal views overriding the laws!

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  4. Radio Rich says:

    Well said Mr Thomas, never met you before but here we have a local eloquently describe the useless folks down at labour and immigration, who let’s be honest probably couldn’t hold down a real job in the private sector. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

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  5. Ummm says:

    Bro, the people in your HR department seem to choose who they want cause I know several people who don’t require a work permit who applied for jobs in your store but were overlooked. You make your bed, now lay in it!

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    • Radio Rich says:

      Well you have to ask yourself why they were overlooked? Probably not having the requisite skills or poor attitude, sounds familiar???

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    • @Ummm says:

      Your attitude is exactly the problem. How do you know the local applicants meet the requirements of the job? Requirements are not just to be met on paper but in PRACTICE and this is the problem. Start a business in the BVI and come back in 6 mths with your story.

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    • @Ummm says:

      They did not get overlooked, they got rejected because they were not qualified, they are lazy, or they refused to work unsocial hours.

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  6. Ho ho says:

    This man preparing himself for next elections, smart hahahahah

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  7. Well Said says:

    “because I think that some of the people in the Labour Department are basically trying to do what they want to do and want to interpret the laws the way they want to interpret it,” Thomas said.

    And the Immigration Department too. For years they have circumvent the law to their own liking.

    Like 19
  8. Karnage says:

    lol what on Earth jobs are there at Clarence Thomas that require bringing in people on work permits. Boy please.

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    • Difficult question says:

      CTL prides itself on employing staff who understand the products they sell, are willing to share that advice, have pleasant personalities, turn up for work on time, and are anxious to please customers.

      I wonder why they have to hire foreign staff!

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      • Lol says:

        He is completely correct. The labour department is a broken system. You need appointments to drop off renewal paperwork, they used to be available in a day or 2 now it is 6 weeks which requires the employee having to get extra time at immigration. A new employee gets 2 weeks on arrival from immigration, it is impossible to get an appointment at Labour in that 2 weeks for them to collect the work permit. Most of the Labour officers though try and are friendly but that lady from upstairs that answers the phone. Could she be any ruder ?

        Like 12
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      • @difficult question says:

        It have losts of persons on island seeking jobs. Not every expats are hard working. Many are mislead by this. At the Adina Donovan Home for the Elderly,where a lot of expats are working..many are soooo lazy they hardly do any work!They came just for the US dollars they say.Why dont they open Nursing School here for there Locals free for locals and give them a small salary? Like other Caribbean Islands? Just saying.

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      • Difficult question says:

        Not all coming from overseas are hard workers. Many like to gossip about each other, and argue so you can lose your job.I am from St Vincent and cant stand my Country people. They need to stay home from coming Tortola. When they come they thnk they own the place.My point is have some respect for the Islands locals as well.

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  9. lawyer says:

    I am not sure if the policies of Labour and the Immigration Department is designed to protect BVI Islanders or frustrate employers in need of employing work permit holders. The process causes unnecessary financial burden on the Employer/Employee and is very time consuming. Especially when an employee is needed urgently. Paying for it to be expedited don’t mean it will be expedited either.

    If a person is applying for a change of employer, why would that person have to leave the country until the permit is deal with? What about his apt and personal belongings? Why can’t they work while waiting for approval? Think about the employer who needs the service of that employee and has to wait. Forcing someone to have to travel don’t benefit the economy, because we don’t own any airlines, and landlords are left with rent arrears.

    So there needs to be a way for these departments to be more flexible in a case-by-case situation.

    Like 14
  10. Ausar says:

    “Karnage”, if you’re not an insider of the corporation, and it’s employment practices, shush!

    I agree with Michael, that, perhaps, persons within that department, may act as de facto politicians- changing policies to suit corporations, and not neccesarily, for the benefit of the the employing corporation, or the population at large!

    However, these persons are employed by the public sector of these Virgin Islands.

    And it seems to me, that if they’re not good stewards of their employment, why do they still have jobs?

    Where are the checks and balances for this department?

    And the Lieutenant Premier-is about face, and pomp and curcumstance,
    ..This is an issue that she should rally around!

    After all, is this department not a segment under her umbrella of services?

    Action, Lieutenant Premier,



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  11. @Karnage says:

    If you can look at the size and scope of CTL and ask why they would need to bring in workers then I feel sorry for you. It’s not just about packing shelves and cashing people out at the register. SMFH!!!!!

    Also to those saying not all expats are hard workers, nobody said that. Being able to recruit from outside means a broader pool to choose from and if due diligence is done right the chances of hiring a decent person are pretty much higher than locally. Don’t forget it costs 5x more to higher from outside as well. It’s clear that most people with the quick witted answers have only been employees all their lives.

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  12. Yes says:

    @May lawyer they shouldn’t be allowed to change employers in the first place if you don’t like the job go back home.

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  13. KISS says:

    Agree totally – please explain why it takes up to 4 to 5 trips to labour and immigration to just renew a work permit as appointments are 6 weeks booked out. An extra $25 per visit .. not to mention a good part of work productivity lost every single time the staff member have to leave work to sit and wait for an appointment which is always late. Dont know how any business can manage through this. THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN.

  14. Double down says:

    Scrutinized the government for exporting money and not keeping it circulated locally but hiring expats that require work permits is also a means of exporting money and not keeping it circulated locally because they have their bills to pay and family to feed overseas. He is doubling down on his own hypocrisy. Perhaps the process at the labour department should incentivise him to hire locally. Instead of lambasting parents about who it is raising the kids, go into the schools and teach them how to apply for your jobs, give them responsibilities so they learn what it takes to be an adult. All this hot air and attention seeking is what causing the weather to be so hot! Pointless.

    Like 6
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    • @ Double Down says:

      You don’t teach people to apply for jobs, you teach them the importance of learning and a positive attitude, everything else comes after. The fact that you refuse to hold parents accountable says it all. Mr. Thomas is a businessman not a guidance counsellor. Keep up the attitude and see how far it gets you. It’s obvious you have never owned a business based on your comments.

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  15. Well well says:

    Mrs. * give that Department a very bad name and stigma which reflects on the staff I am so Happy she retired. Wate of time and holding up everyone permits except her feiends who get their permits within 4 days.

  16. A Capitalist Who Loves the BVI says:

    He’s not doubling down on anything. He’s frustrated by a government that is bloated and staffed with feckless people who have never owned or run a business or a part of a business. The people who run these little fiefdoms are completely clueless, and yet are in charge of making decisions for the few productive people who create jobs and thereby generate wealth.

    Why does it take so long to get a trade licence? How about buying a property as a non-Belonger (6 months is considered “fast”)? It’s idiotic that there are so many ministers, assistant ministers, secretaries and assistants to the minister or a minister’s assistant, etc. implement. Over 2,500 people on the government payroll in a territory of less than 30,000 people – but yet, EVERYTHING takes forever and a day (unless it’s an event that involves a photo-op, which will always get a lightening-fast and enthusiastic response and scheduling). So incredibly foolish.

  17. @ DOUBLE DOWN says:

    looks like Michael touched your nerves , well the truth hurts , Mr Thomas is simply telling it like it is , who it hurt it HURT

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    • Double down says:

      Hmm. Let me think about how pointing someone out for their hypocrisy equates to touching a nerve. You would have to assume that I care either way. You know why they say to never assume? Back to my unbiased observation. People in the country are too gullible and easily impressed with pointless ramblings of others, even where it involves one hypocrite calling himself out. This is why we are stuck with the likewise pointless government of the day. As if the minds of the people under a spell. There is no hope for the country people of gullible people.

  18. What says:

    Mikey T is correct. The labour Dept is poorly run. His business is probably in the top 10 when it comes to tax revenue for the country. but his business should be like no other. The Labour department should help not hinder employers and employees. But this points too the wider issue and that is we are supposed to first offer jobs to BVI islanders and Belongers, and these are not always the best people for the job…

  19. Kudos to you Michael says:

    The people and i mean the MAJORITY at immigration use their personal prejudice and bias to withhold work
    Permit from people and they are so evil that you catch them lying because they tell you a lot of different things that are not in the laws .
    One woman told a man to come in on a Saturday for an interview
    They have you going back and forth on little things and give you three and four days to get police record and set the time to come so it is not enough time to get your stiff together . They will
    tell you you have to wait for six months for a next date and you have to pay to start over
    Sime of them have no empathy. The tone of voice in which they speak to you make you cringe as if you are less than a human being . Well dont talk about if you Fillipino
    , Guyuanese , or Causacian . You should hear how they treat them with disrespect.. Have mercy . I look kind of black so i get away ..

  20. Call yo friend in labour says:

    CTL’s staff turn around rate is ridiculous and he only hires expats. He gets through with bringing in people faster than anybody else. Stop making this man fool yall …

    Like 6
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  21. One love says:

    Buy them a shrimp lunch and a malt and you get through quicker..wicked see.

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