AFRICAN migrant workers are ‘afraid’ to challenge their employers for fear of losing their jobs and accommodation, a Scrutiny panel has heard.
Members of The Friends of Africa CI told the Work Permit Holder Welfare Review Panel that employment was often tied to housing, and that workers could lose both in one go if they spoke out on workplace grievances.
Panel chair Deputy Beatriz Porée described the feedback as ‘sobering information’ but added that it was ‘important’ for their review of the welfare of work permit holders.
Washington Gwatidzo, chair of The Friends of Africa CI, said that the charity was set up to ‘champion diversity and inclusion’ in Jersey and to celebrate different cultures in the Island.
Mr Gwatidzo said: ‘Putting your head above the parapet and reporting your employer is a scary thing to do.’
Fellow member Lesley Katsande added that if African migrant workers challenged an employer and ‘put their head above the parapet’, then the worker would not return to the Island.
Deputy Porée said: ‘It does seem that there are people who are fearful of complaining, people feel that they can’t complain.’
Ms Katsande said: ‘Migrant workers are not empowered to stand up for themselves.
‘Employers are not answerable to anyone, unless it’s the tax department or social security.
‘But regardless of where you are from, discrimination is difficult to tackle.
‘If you are mistreated at work, and you do win an Employment Tribunal, there is no way to hold the immigration department to account.’
Arthur Kembo, who previously worked as a work permit holder in Jersey, shared his concerns.
He said: ‘Work permit holders are tied to their employer for one year – they can’t leave their employment. If they do leave their employer, then they have to leave the Island – as an employee you have no rights.’
In a separate hearing, the Kenyan Jersey Committee also shared feedback to the panel.
They heard that there were around 1,000 Kenyans living in Jersey.
Jersey Kenyan Committee secretary Joshua Mushuri said that the biggest issue for Kenyan work permit holders was that they could work for only one employer.
‘The work permit holders come here to make income – in their free time they are not allowed to make more of an income,’ said Mr Mushuri.