Chamber call on States to encourage immigration
JERSEY’S government has been urged to encourage immigration and not make any moves to restrict the inward flow of migrant workers before Brexit by the Island’s business leaders.
In a letter sent to the Population Office and ministers, which has been seen by the JEP, the Chamber of Commerce has called for the government to postpone the debate on its new population policy, which includes proposals for tighter immigration controls, as businesses are already struggling to find staff because fewer migrants are coming to the Island.
The letter, which was signed by Chamber chief executive Gillian Martindale-Parsons and president Eliot Lincoln, says that Brexit has discouraged foreign workers from seeking employment here in the farming, hospitality and retail sectors, as the exchange rate of sterling plummeted following the 2016 referendum, effectively lowering the wages which they can earn.
And the letter raises concerns that further restricting foreign workers coming to Jersey would force businesses to pay higher wages to their employees and increase staff turnover, as the pool of labour in the Island shrinks.
Last month Chief Minister Ian Gorst announced he was intending to lodge proposals which, if approved, would see stricter immigration controls introduced, including a four-year time-limited work permit for low-paid and low-skilled workers. Tougher criminal record checks were also proposed and a ten-month permit for seasonal or temporary workers.
Senator Gorst said that he hoped the measures would help curb the growth of Jersey’s population, which has grown by 16,000 since 2001 and now exceeds 103,000.
But, in response to the announcement, the Chamber’s letter urges the government to hold off lodging the proposals while the Brexit process is ongoing or before May’s general election.
‘While Chamber wants to work closely with government on this policy, we would strongly urge you not to lodge the proposition ahead of the new Assembly in May or before Brexit negotiations are complete,’ it says.
‘...[Chamber] would strongly urge you and the Council of Ministers to use the Brexit outcome as a starting point for any migration policy, followed by thorough consultation with commerce.’
It also calls for the government to encourage workers to come here rather than apply tougher controls at this time.
‘The once traditional flow of migrant workers, who are greatly relied on in Jersey, are choosing not to come as a direct result of a weakened pound caused by Brexit,’ it says.
‘It is therefore imperative for the States to work together with commerce and develop policy that enables and encourages workers to come to the Island, as opposed to disincentives, which the proposals in the policy document will undoubtedly create for some...
‘It is not the right time for government to be making changes to existing migration controls until Brexit is complete, or at the very least a decision is made regarding the free movement of people [the immigration rights of EU nationals].’
It adds: ‘[Chamber] acknowledges that population controls are necessary. However, businesses must have the flexibility to employ the right person for the job and the right number of employees.
‘Restricting this ultimately restricts business and economic growth and will cause organisational churn [higher staff turnover] and wage inflation as we compete for the same resource in a shallow pool.’
Senator Gorst, who said that he initially hoped to debate the new population policy in March, is still yet to lodge a proposition on the matter.