Director of Labour John Pinder said he is dissatisfied with what he called The Pointe resort’s refusal to adhere to its heads of agreement with the government, which requires 70 percent Bahamian workers and 30 percent foreign workers.
Pinder said during his department’s last inspection, it was discovered that there are 229 Chinese, 38 other nationalities and just 97 Bahamians working on the project at this stage.
That works out to be 73 percent foreign workers and 27 percent Bahamian workers.
“Based on the heads of agreement at this stage, in that construction project there should be 70 percent Bahamians in there and no more than 30 percent foreign workers. So, we’re not satisfied with that at all; we’re trying to see how we can best address that,” Pinder told Guardian Business yesterday.
Pinder said at this stage he expects the minister of labor to present those findings to Cabinet, so that the government can make a decision on how best to address the issue.
He suggested, however, “So, The Pointe would have gotten a heads of agreement from the government and it would have spoken to them agreeing to the 70:30 percent ratio at this stage of construction. The government would have given them concessions. I think the government needs to revisit those concessions in lieu of the fact that they breached the heads of agreement as it relates to the ratio of Bahamians versus foreign workers.
“Maybe if they start now, causing there to be penalties to an investor who violates or breaches a heads of agreement, then that would discourage others from doing the same thing. If you let one get away with it, others will try the same thing.”
The issue regarding the ratio of Bahamian to foreign workers on the project has been long lamented by the construction industry.
Last June, the Ministry of Labour investigated conflicting reports where The Pointe presented reports to the ministry indicating that the number of Bahamian workers was much higher than what the ministry’s own surveys found.
“I’ve been in this position now for over 18 months and it has been a challenge. When I first got involved with the investigation, I was told that there was a lack of electricity supply going to the project that caused them not to be able to bring Bahamians on to do some of the interior work. That matter has been resolved. We went back, we did another check and we were then advised that there’s a language barrier, so they want all the Bahamians working out on the port areas where they have the marina part of it; and some restaurants they are building out on the water part, they have Bahamians working on that,” Pinder said yesterday.
“But for the most part, the main construction of the hotel and the time sharing, the condominiums, we were advised there is some language barrier issue there and they were trying to work through those. And then in addition to that, they would subcontract work to Bahamian contractors, who they themselves are bringing in foreign workers on the job, so immigration has to get involved because they’re the ones that issue work permits; we don’t issue work permits. They need to tighten up and do their own inspections so that this can be addressed.
“My guys would go out six o’clock in the morning and count the heads as they’re coming in. We’ll probably go back around lunch time and see if it’s the same. Because sometimes when we go they would say the Bahamian workers haven’t reached yet,” said Pinder.