THE new Population Management Law, which comes into force in just over a month, is ‘economic suicide’, a businessman said yesterday.
Guy Anderson was the organiser of a special meeting between a group of industry representatives and entrepreneurs and members of the Committee for Economic Development and staff from Locate Guernsey and other States bodies yesterday afternoon.
Mr Anderson felt the laws were unnecessary post-Brexit.
‘It is economic suicide and will cause a downturn in business and economic confidence in the island,’ he said. ‘Are we really being sensible by adding more problems to the current situation?’
Entrepreneur Zef Eisenberg said the effects of the new laws were already being seen across industry through ‘ever-worsening’ employment conditions
‘We are here as a group of passionate Guernsey residents and investors to explain the risks of the new population laws in finding adequate and quality staffing for our care homes, restaurants, hotels, law and accountancy firms, which before the proposal of the new population and open market laws wasn’t an issue,’ he said.
‘The room was filled with representatives for all these groups to explain the staffing issues that are happening right now as a result of these new laws. There are a lot of deputies who are unaware and oblivious to the threat that Guernsey is facing and it will only get worse.’
There were also concerns that there is widespread misunderstanding of the law.
Chamber of Commerce director Barry Cash said one of the main issues was the ‘complexity’ of the law and the problem that ‘a lot of people do not understand it’.
He said the meeting had been ‘constructive’ and had given different industries the chance to raise their concerns.
However, the director of housing control, Esther Ingrouille, said the incoming Population Management system would provide greater ‘long-term continuity’ and employment opportunities than the island has ever had previously.
‘One of the biggest criticisms of the current Housing Control system has been that people don’t understand how and why decisions are made. This is being addressed under the incoming Population Management system, because all the policies underpinning the day-to-day operation of the system will be published online.
‘The States also appointed an independent population employment advisory panel. The panel has just concluded its work, and has made recommendations about what types of jobs should attract different lengths of employment permit in the future. Once the final policy is published, this will give Guernsey businesses more certainty than they have ever had before when it comes to the likely outcome of applications for people to come to work in the island.
‘If businesses truly have a need for long-term continuity in roles that are strategically important to our economy and our community, they should contact their panel representative to make sure that information is fed back.’
Ms Ingrouille said the new laws tackled issues with the existing licensing system and said extensive public consultation had taken place to discuss business needs.
‘Probably the second biggest criticism was that the nine-months on, three-months off licence was no longer reflective of the needs of many local businesses,’ she said.
‘Under the new system, the equivalent permit will enable people to stay in the island for up to five years without breaking residence at all, if this is what the employer wants. For those businesses where the seasonal licence has worked well, they can still employ a person for five seasons. All of this gives a long period of stability to those businesses.
‘There are special transitional arrangements in place to manage the changeover between the two systems. Before those transitional arrangements were debated by the States, we held meetings with the business community so that they could understand the implications, and lobby for changes, if any were needed, before they were debated by the States.
‘We subsequently contacted about 2,000 businesses and held masterclasses so that they could learn about the new system, and about the transitional arrangements for current guest workers
‘Although it is disappointing to hear that any business has deep-seated concerns, the new system has to be one that works for the island as a whole, and there are many business sectors that have welcomed the changes.’
Economic Development president Deputy Peter Ferbrache said the new laws would definitely go ahead, but left the door open as to whether they could be revised post-implementation.
‘We had a very constructive meeting with representatives from different parts of the economy and society,’ he said. ‘The new laws will certainly come into effect [on 3 April], but what happens after that will depend on a number of factors.’