Immigration defends Baker’s Bay work permits

Immigration defends Baker’s Bay work permits
Elsworth Johnson, Minister of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration (FILE PHOTO)

420 Bahamians currently employed on project

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson defended the decision to grant 135 work permits for construction of the Baker’s Bay project, stating workers hold technical skill sets that will be shared with Bahamians.

Johnson was responding to uproar over the use of foreign labour as the country experiences record unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis.

He explained Baker’s Bay developers initially requested 500 work permits but were refused due to the government’s mandate to prioritize Bahamian labor.

“After the passage of Hurricane Dorian last September, many parts of North Abaco suffered severe damage, including Baker’s Bay,” read Johnson’s statement.

“Sometime following the aftermath of the storm the developers of Baker’s Bay expressed to the government their desire to rebuild as soon as it was humanely possible. It was further expressed that the intention was to reconstruct the project within a year to a year-and-a-half.

Johnson continued: “There was an original request for 500 work permits. However, based on the government’s labor mandate to ensure that Bahamians be given priority for any and all job opportunities, and that Bahamians also make up the vast majority of the onsite labor force, that request was refused and instead 135 work permits were granted.

“All work permit applicants are to facilitate technical works, whose skill sets would also be shared with the Bahamian work force.

“The vision of the developer is to bring the project back to a global standard and it is their goal to have up to 1,400 persons employed with the vast majority of whom being Bahamians. Presently there are 420 Bahamians employed on the project.”

Johnson confirmed 134 persons from Mexico arrived in New Providence, who will be part of the project at Baker’s Bay.

He added: “Every one of the 134 persons was in possession of their Ministry of Health travel visa and each presented authorities with a negative Covid-19 test result. The government of The Bahamas remains committed to ensuring that Bahamians are afforded every employment opportunity.”