The head of the local contractors association said yesterday that he is still waiting to hear from Labour Minister Dion Foulkes, as the investigation into claims of an imbalance in the lawful labour ratio at the $250 million The Pointe development by the Department of Labour, has been complete.
“We are hoping to meet with the minister but no, we haven’t had an official meeting with any minister yet,” Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) President Leonard Sands told Eyewitness News over the phone yesterday.
“The minister of labor says he has the report. We’re hoping, as he indicated, that he would share the report with the public and/or talk about why the ratio we believe still, is not in keeping with the heads of agreement, which is 70 per cent Bahamian to 30 per cent foreign labour …
“I believe they are discussing it in Cabinet now, but we do not have that information. The public doesn’t have that information.”
Sands claimed The Pointe is not the only project that seemingly involves labor discrimination, but it has received a lot more attention than other projects because of its central location.
“I think the difference is there is a model that Chinese use, where we can check it (work force numbers) easily. But at the same time, I think because of the proximity to where people live and work, we can actually see everything that’s going on. There’s no veil in front of us,” he lamented.
“We see when they go to work. We see when they turn down for the day. The whole country drives past it every day. So, this is probably the first time that we can see what’s going on. So, we can ask ourselves what’s going on with the labour force.
“The association has never had an opportunity like this.”
Sands said he’s concerned to have had the BCA bring the issue to light, as government should have been the first to spot any irregularity.
“There needs to be a safeguard; an agency in the government that does reporting on labor numbers. It should not have been the BCA [that sounded] the alarm. There should have been a government agency,” he said.
“Why wasn’t the government aware? That shouldn’t have caught them off-guard. And to say you did a visit a year ago, you know a whole lot of people can move up and down in a year.”
The BCA brought the issue to light in a Facebook post, posing the question: “Why is it that our local, highly-qualified iron workers and concrete tradesmen are 95 per cent majority of the workforce on this multimillion-dollar development (Albany), but seemingly no Bahamian is good enough to work at The Pointe development on Bay Street doing the exact same job?”
Attempts to reach the labour minister up to the publication of this article were unsuccessful.
The Pointe development, which recently announced Margaritaville as the hotel operator, is expected to have a phased opening just over a year.