This case study is based on a real case Liberate was involved with. (Names have been changed.)
Case study: Makalani applied for a job as an accountant with a finance company in Jersey from his family home in Kenya. The finance company interviewed him remotely and offered him the job. The finance company had a licence to employ Makalani and sent him his contract. Makalani was granted a 3 year Jersey work permit, he signed and returned the contract. Makalani and his family relocated to Jersey and everything was going well. He was flat out at work helping the company through their busy period, he had a steady wage that meant he could rent a flat. At his six month probation review he was told he had not passed his probation and was out of a job. He was not provided with a reason. He had no unfair dismissal rights because he had not been employed for 52 weeks and his work permit was now invalid. He could not afford to continue to rent the flat without a wage and had 28 days in which to find another job or leave the island with his family. As a final injustice, Makalani found out after leaving the company that he had been paid less per hour than his colleagues doing the same job.
The finance company had benefited from the expertise of a qualified accountant for the duration of their busy period at a much reduced salary cost and with no penalty for dismissing him when they no longer needed the extra help.
Reading Makalani’s story one might think he had a strong case for a discrimination claim, and the advice was that he did. However, he did not pursue it because he would have had to navigate a legal system with which he was unfamiliar; his confidence in being treated fairly in Jersey was badly shaken; and, he had 28 days to find a job or leave the Island, which had to be his priority.
Makalani’s story is not unique. Similar cases have been, and continue to be, dealt with by Jersey charities. Charities are picking up the pieces in the wake of unscrupulous employers.
The unequal treatment of migrant workers to Jersey cannot continue. Jersey cannot expect people to move their lives to the Island in order to work and contribute to the economy with no protection should it go wrong.
A two-tier system where one group of working people enjoy rights and privileges, but another group are denied those rights and privileges is morally unacceptable, but also no longer sustainable when the Island has a skills shortage.
We would like to see manifestos address the issue of migrant workers’ rights that give all workers protection and security making Jersey a welcoming and ethical jurisdiction in which to live.