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Pointe's Developer Pledges Bahamian Labour Compliance

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

THE Pointe's developer yesterday promised to continue full compliance with its original Heads of Agreement (HOA) that requires 70 per cent Bahamian labour on the project's construction.

Gerhard Beukes, vice-president of China Construction America's (CCA) South America affiliate, told Tribune Business: "The plan is to still to comply with the original Heads of Agreement; that is the intention. We have all intentions of complying with the ratio of Bahamian versus expat workers as agreed in the Heads of Agreement with the government."

The Heads of Agreement for the project, tabled in Parliament last year, granted CCA between 400-500 work permits for the $200 million development. The deal, dated June 18, 2015, stipulated that Bahamians would comprise 70 per cent of the total construction workforce, once those employed by local sub-contractors were included in the calculation. And Bahamian sub-contractors were supposed to receive "approximately 40 per cent of development work.... in various classifications", although these were not listed.

Mr Beukes' comments came after Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) president, Leonard Sands, demanded the Government and developer "clarify" how many Bahamian companies and labourers are employed on Phase II of The Pointe. The Pointe's developer is China Construction America (CCA), Baha Mar's controversial main contractor and the British Colonial Hilton's owner.

"While I'm happy with the work going on, we would want to know what is the involvement of Bahamian contractors this time around," Mr Sands said of The Pointe.

"The BCA right now wants to know how this multi-million project is going to be constructed and completed, and how Bahamian workers will be a part of this. We are asking for clarity. I know there were a lot of Chinese workers on the ground. I would like to know what's going to happen as they get into vertical construction, pouring concrete and laying blocks; that is something a large portion of our workforce is very skilled at."

Phase II is now underway, and will encompass the development of a 100-room, eight-storey condominium complex with oceanfront residences and a marina. "Phase II is progressing; the condominium tower is coming out of the ground nicely. We are proceeding according to the revised timelines we have," said Mr Beukes.

Mr Beukes is the former chief executive and 60 per cent majority shareholder of Renew Bahamas, the company that won a contract from the former Christie administration to manage the New Providence landfill and operate a recycling business there.

Renew Bahamas ceased operations at the landfill in Hurricane Matthew's aftermath, citing the 'force majeure' provisions in its contract, and forcing the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) to take over the site again. The Minnis administration has subsequently initiated a new bid process seeking to privatise the landfill.

Mr Beukes, prior to Renew Bahamas' creation, was one of the lead negotiators for the private equity firm that sold the British Colonial Hilton to CCA.

Chinese labour and materials typically go wherever Beijing and its investments are in the world, meaning that The Pointe model is little different from their government's norm.

"It is understood and agreed that the workforce employed by the Bahamian sub-contractors are part of the overall Bahamian to non-Bahamian labour ratio, and Bahamians will represent 70 per cent of the total labour requirement for the development," the Heads of Agreement state.

"The parties may, through mutual agreement, vary their employment ratio if it becomes necessary for earlier completion."

The 70 per cent 'Bahamian labour component' is thus subject to alteration but, based on the 400-500 Chinese work permits, this implies around 800-1,000 construction jobs for Bahamians.

The Heads of Agreement also committed CCA to "make every effort to fill as many jobs as possible with Bahamian citizens". However, it then added: "The Government recognises, however, that due to the development of the proposed high-rise structures and the tight schedule to complete the development, non-Bahamian labour with special skills and expertise that are not readily available in the Bahamas will be required.

"To this end, the Government agrees to facilitate the grant of between 400 and 500 work permits to qualified persons on a short-term or longer basis, depending on the job classification and the ability of [CCA] to find and/or train suitable candidates for such jobs."

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