PM says government committed to addressing issues impacting casual workers

PM says government committed to addressing issues impacting casual workers

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Philip Davis, on Friday, reaffirmed his government’s commitment to addressing legislative gaps affecting casual workers, noting that such workers have long been denied the benefits, security, and stability enjoyed by their permanent counterparts.

Prime Minister Davis made the remarks while speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Grand Bahama Shipyard’s $600 million transformation project. He emphasized: “Over the years, the issue of casual labor has remained a top concern for us. Many of these hardworking individuals, despite playing critical roles in our industries, have been deprived of essential benefits and financial security, ranging from the lack of insurance coverage to difficulties in obtaining job verification letters.”

The Prime Minister went on to point out that these workers have struggled to access credit, obtain loans, and avail themselves of other financial services that are commonly regarded as fundamental employment benefits, leading to a dire financial trap.

Furthermore, he added: “Unfortunately, casual labor, as traditionally practiced, has significantly impeded prospects for economic security, hindering dreams of property ownership, entrepreneurship, and advanced education. This issue is not unique to Grand Bahama, but the shipyard has faced its own set of challenges. A compelling example is the story of a worker who lost an eye, a stark reminder of the necessary changes we must make. As we advance in the implementation of the ILO Decent Work Programme, we are acutely aware of the legislative gaps in casual labor.”

Prime Minister Davis pledged that his administration is fully committed to ensuring that casual workers are granted the dignity and financial security they rightfully deserve. He also highlighted the anticipated increase in the number of permanent employees with the completion of the GB Shipyard redevelopment.

“This translates to enhanced stability and job security for our Bahamian workforce. We also propose a new system for contract workers, envisioning a process whereby these workers transition into full-time roles, complete with all associated benefits, after a designated period or based on their performance. The government is leading this transformation, and we encourage you to draw inspiration from our Public Service Professional Engagement program,” Davis stated. “This program is designed to create permanent opportunities for participants after a one-year period, and we recommend a similar model to establish a clear career path to permanent employment for contract and casual workers.”

Additionally, he highlighted that the Grand Bahama Shipyard’s transformation is not solely about improving infrastructure or expanding the capacity to repair large vessels. It is also a substantial investment in the people.

“The expansion of the shipyard’s apprenticeship program, for instance, underscores our dedication to our people. We commit to developing 16-20 new apprentices each year, ensuring our young talent is well-prepared for current and future opportunities. This aligns with my government’s creation of a new unit within the Department of Labor to ensure Bahamians are trained to fill roles currently held by foreign workers. As I mentioned in the House of Assembly, this initiative represents a significant step in safeguarding our workers and upholding Bahamianization policies,” he emphasized.

Minister for Grand Bahama, Ginger Moxey, also highlighted the significance of the shipyard’s expansion, comparing it to the ongoing $500 million Carnival Cruise Port investment. She noted that it would invigorate Grand Bahama’s economy and bolster the maritime sector in The Bahamas.

“Upon the completion of this transformative $600 million project, in collaboration with stakeholders Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival Corporation, and Port Group Limited, the shipyard will re-establish itself as the world’s largest cruise repair facility,” she added.