Mark: Put Trinidad and Tobago’s people first

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Wade Mark –

OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark said Caricom nationals who qualify as skilled workers under the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) should not take priority over qualified TT nationals, for jobs in this country.

He made this comment during his contribution to debate on the (Caribbean Community Skilled Nationals)(Amendment) Bill, 2022, in the Senate on Tuesday. While the UNC has no objection in principle to the free movement of skilled labour through out the Caribbean, Mark said, “TT is experiencing high levels of unemployment.”

He claimed there could be between 150,000 to 170,000 people who are unemployed now.

“We must put the national interest first. We must see about our people who are unemployed first.”

Mark asked whether there was consultation with the labour movement or civil society about the bill.

He also asked if any survey was done to determine the levels of unemployment in TT and the types of jobs which skilled Caricom nationals could fill.

“We are not ready for this.”

Mark also wondered if Caricom nationals who qualify as skilled workers under the legislation, as well as their spouses who would be allowed to come with them, would be able to vote in general, local government or Tobago House of Assembly elections.

He urged the Government to withdraw the bill and take it back to the drawing board.

Independent Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye said she had no fear about skilled Caricom nationals coming to work in TT. As someone who supports regional integration, she added that TT should be guided by the principle of “do to others whatever you would have them do to you.”

But Thompson-Ahye felt there was a need for clarity in certain parts of the bill. While the bill permits the denial of entry to people convicted of a criminal offence, she wondered whether this was for minor offences or major ones.

Thompson-Ahye wondered if it was right to debar a qualified Caricom national entry into TT, if that person had turned their life around after a past transgression. She also found the definition of spouse in the legislation to be too broad.

Thompson-Ahye wondered if this covered situations where the person who accompanies the skilled worker is not the legally married spouse. She reminded senators there are people with “a real phobia for marriage.”