ALLEGATIONS of bullying, victimisation and sexual harassment – contained in a Scrutiny submission about the treatment of migrant workers – are ‘not a surprise’, according to the chair of the panel investigating the use of work permits.
Deputy Beatriz Porée, who is leading the Work Permit Holder Welfare Review Panel, spoke after receiving a ‘very sad’ anonymous submission describing the poor treatment that some workers were allegedly faced with – and has urged those in a similar position to come forward.
The panel was established earlier this month to scrutinise the welfare of work-permit holders coming to the Island and has agreed to organise public hearings with the relevant ministers, departments and stakeholders. It is currently seeking to gather evidence from work permit holders.
Of the several submissions made to the panel so far, one individual raised allegations of sexual harassment and bullying.
‘Having raised my allegations, my hours were reduced from 40 hours to 29 hours, which is against the immigration law and policy. I believe this was breached and no action was taken,’ they wrote.
The submission alleged that they had been subject to sexual harassment and bullying at a hotel they worked in, which included the perpetrator getting ‘intimate’ with staff in secluded areas – and that workers had ‘ended up settling’ for sexual harassment and bullying due to fears over their visas.
Deputy Porée said the allegations were ‘very sad’ but added that they were ‘not a surprise’.
‘The reason I stepped up to chair the panel is because I have heard of these issues before. Apparently people are not being treated with respect and cared for in the way that they should be.
‘That is the reason that the panel was set up,’ she said, adding that all submissions would be carefully examined.
At a Scrutiny panel hearing in November, Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles raised concerns about the welfare of permit holders, stating that immigration officers had dealt with several breaches, including employers offering zero-hour contracts to employees on a work permit, which is not allowed, and companies attempting to lay off workers before their nine-month permits had ended.
Deputy Porée said: ‘There are too many people coming to Jersey on working contracts who are complaining about not being treated properly.
‘Without testimonies it is difficult to support people,’ she continued, noting that the ability to make a submission anonymously was important in helping workers to come forward.
‘They need a safe place to tell their story,’ she said. ‘These people are vulnerable and we need to protect them so they can express themselves.’