OFWs face bahamas job loss

28 April 2013

Manila, Philippines --- Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Bahamas will soon face the same predicament that fellow OFWs in Saudi Arabia are currently experiencing.

With their so-called "Bahamianisation" policy, Bahamas authorities are now set to suspend the issuance of work permits to foreigners, including Filipinos, to give priority to the locals in the field of employment.

Bahamianisation was concentrated on employment -- the promotion of Bahamians to jobs that were not open to them before.

The concept is a revived and updated version of the Bahamianisation Policy penned by the Lynden Pindling administration during the seventies.

It echoes the recent "Bahamians First" campaign slogan adopted by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) pledging to put the interests of Bahamians above all others in The Bahamas. The message resonated among the Bahamian people resulting in a landslide victory for the PLP on May 7, 2012.

Bahamanian officials stressed the need to provide employment to their own citizens even as they acknowledged the contributions of OFWs in their economic progress.

Owing to this new labor policy, an estimated 1,000 OFWs are facing the possibility of retrenchment.

This possible scenario prompted the Philippine Embassy in Washington to make an appeal to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas on behalf of OFWs.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington assumes consular jurisdiction over the Bahamas, following the closure of the Philippine Embassy in Havana, Cuba last year.

Majority of OFWs in Bahamas are housekeepers. Other Filipinos are employed as cooks, hotel employees and medical workers.

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the Bahamas were established in 1976.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said yesterday it has already prepared reintegration packages for OFWs who will be affected by the move from the Bahamas government to nationalize it workforce.

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a text message yesterday that only low skilled-worker will be immediately be affected by the Bahamian government's "Bahamanians First" policy.

Under the policy, the DFA said the Bahamian government would suspend the issuance of work permit to foreign nationals in an effort to increase the participation of Bahamians in their workforce.

Baldoz said she has already instructed DoLE's attached agencies to prepare skills training and business packages for those, who will be affected by the policy.

"I was told that domestic helpers will be prioritized [in the policy]. There should be upskilling for different job when they come back. Or entrepreneurship assistance for starting their business," Baldoz said.