One of the arguments offered by anti-migrant proponents is that the 14,000 -plus Venezuelans registered to live and work in Trinidad and Tobago for one year, will take the jobs of locals.
Opposition Senator Khadijah Ameen said last week that jobs for Trinbagonians were under threat because employers will tap into Venezuelan ‘cheap labour’ who require no National Health Insurance (NIS) payments.
But according to president of the Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce (PDCC) Rampersad Sieuraj the migrants are simply doing the jobs locals are no longer willing to do.
He said the work ethics displayed by Venezuelans should be a lesson to local workers. And the migrants, he said, were a blessing to many employers.
In an interview with the Express on Wednesday, Sieuraj said his research has revealed that the positive effects of migrant workers far outweigh any negative impact.
He said the Venezuelan women mostly find employment in bars, clubs and as domestic workers while men are employed as labourers in the construction sector.
Most of the Venezuelans entered the country through inlets along the southwestern peninsula. And the majority have opted to remains in the Penal/Debe district seeking employment and shelter, he said.
Sieuraj said, “We have seen a large number of Venezuelans in Penal Debe and they are obviously looking for employment wherever and whatever they get to do. There are a number of them who have been employed in the area and what we have noticed is that their work ethic is different from Trinidadians. They are doing a fair days work for a fair days pay.”
He said the migrants were willing to “do anything” for money.
Sieuraj said Venezuelans can be found in bars, supermarkets, retail outlets and construction sites throughout the district.
The language barrier, he said, prevented them from better opportunities.
Sieuraj denied that the migrants were being paid salaries below minimum wage. He said, “They are being paid minimum wage. I have heard one or two people in the construction sector saying they were paying a little more than that. The employers are comfortable with their work ethics, they are prepared to work 7am to 4pm or 7am to 5pm or whatever hours they are asked to work. And employers give extra money for extra hours.”
The migrants, he said, may actually improve the construction sector in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We find that some employers are more willing to take them on than Trinidadians. And there is a lesson to be learnt from that because of the fact that for too long Trinidadians seem not to be prepared to work. They prepared to stand up on a shovel for two hours and get pay or come to work in an office at 9am and leave at 3pm and take two hours lunch,” he said.
Sieuraj said there were few stories of migrants being deceitful and conniving. But most employers, he said, were pleased with the workers.
“These people are prepared to work longer hours. So a job that would take a group of Trinidadians seven days to complete, these Venezuelans would do it in three or four days. So they are prepared to work longer hours and more assiduously with greater productivity,” he said.
Sieuraj said employers were disappointed that the Government did not conduct a thorough screening process during the 14-day registration process last month.
“We do not know about the screening process, we don’t know if we have criminals amongst them or people with diseases. We are taking it as we get it,” he said.
The Penal/Debe Chamber has embarked on a drive to collect clothing, toiletries and clothing to assist migrants in the community.