Former Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) President Leonard Sands said moving forward, the government should be more specific in its heads of agreements (HOA) with foreign developers about the Bahamian labor component.
Sands, who has long claimed that The Pointe development was not living up to its HOA with government – which stipulates 70 percent Bahamian workers and 30 percent foreign workers – said the agreement was too general.
“The heads of agreement was not written specifically enough. It does not point to and is not strong enough to say when an investor must hire Bahamians in the numbers of 70:30. It said it in general terms,” Sands said.
“We need to revisit how we write heads of agreements and I would not be so bold as to say we need to have persons in the industry sit at the table to properly advise governments before they sign these things. Anyone who has the capacity to understand how to build something could give valuable advice to all governments and then they should make the agreement enforceable that 70 percent has to be the number of Bahamians employed.”
Last week, Director of Labour John Pinder said he was dissatisfied with the Bahamian labor complement at The Pointe and that his department’s investigations found there to be 73 percent foreign workers on the project, compared to the 27 percent Bahamian workers currently working.
Pinder also suggested that the government revisit its concessionary package offered to the project’s developers.
“First of all, my good friend John Pinder is right but I said it first. I questioned this when I read the heads of agreement,” said Sands. “What happens if they breach it? Do we get to pull back the incentives that we offered, which is the public stake in the offering to any investor? What happens if they breach it?”
“And I questioned, so the superstructure is complete and when they made that announcement, my question was okay so should we start seeing 70 percent of the workforce being Bahamians? When they were doing the glazing, when they were forming the walls and the sheet rock hanging? You know the project is literally almost ready to be opened and you have not seen that 70 percent threshold met.
“So, John Pinder is correct, we should have pulled back at that time, some of the concessions. We should have pulled back, at that time, the tariffs that we offered in exchange for the labor which we never got.”
Yesterday Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said his ministry is in talks with The Pointe’s developers and is trying to work out the situation.