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Ascendant job cuts spark immigration row

  • Egregious actions: Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs

The home affairs ministry stepped into a row last night about three redundancies at power firm Ascendant.

The move came after three Bermudian marketing staff lost their jobs last week at Ascendant, parent company of Belco, and their roles were outsourced to the design and marketing firm Cosmic.

A post on Facebook claimed later that Belco had fired the staff after a work permit for the chosen overseas candidate for senior vice-president of marketing and corporate communications, Laurie Feser, was refused because there were Bermudians qualified for the job who were not considered.

The post further alleged that an appeal against the decision was rejected by immigration officials, but that Ms Feser was working as a “marketing consultant” for Belco.

A spokeswoman for the home affairs ministry said: “Earlier today a message was circulated on social media that alleges that senior management had retaliated to the refusal of a work permit by dismissing Bermudians.

“When the Department of Immigration learnt about the redundancies last week, inquiries commenced into the actions of the company.

“The department cannot speak to specific allegations until they have been completely investigated, however, the department will inform the public what action, if any, will be taken following the completion of its investigation.

The spokeswoman added: “However, the Department would like to clarify that the person named in the message was not issued a work permit and does not have permission to work in Bermuda.

“Our records indicate that this individual is not in Bermuda and if any member of the public has information about actions that contravene our immigration laws, they are encouraged to call the immigration department.”

Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, said: “I am dismayed at the egregious actions of this company.

“I must add that this government has zero tolerance for such actions.”

Mr Brown added: “In addition, there are other sanctions that have been imposed on the company that I will communicate to them directly tomorrow morning.

“I must also warn all companies that hold work permits and may be considering such action, that they must first inform the Ministry of Home Affairs and/or the Department of Immigration, prior to taking such action, to inform us on the number of jobs being made redundant and what plans are being made for Bermudians.”

Mr Brown warned: “While there are a number of companies that have met with me when there are loss of jobs, it appears that others seem to take a cavalier attitude.

“This will not be tolerated and sanctions will be imposed.”

Ascendant announced yesterday that, in addition to the three redundancies, two vacant positions at the firm had been axed.

An Ascendant spokesman confirmed: “The marketing and communications department for the Ascendant Group Ltd has been outsourced, which will result in substantial cost savings to the company.”

The spokesman added: “The marketing and communications functions have been outsourced to Cosmic Ltd, a local, Bermudian-owned and managed company.”

Cosmic, founded 16 years ago, merged in 2016 with The Foundation, a specialist in web design, development, print and online marketing services.