By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
SOME labourers at The Pointe development were reclassified by the Department of Immigration, Brent Symonette said yesterday, adding developer China Construction America is now paying the increased fees relating to semi-skilled and skilled labourers.
He explained this to the media yesterday after it was reported that Attorney General Carl Bethel addressed the issue in the Senate on Monday.
During the sitting, Mr Bethel said he observed foreigners doing jobs they were not needed for.
Mr Symonette, minister of immigration, said: “I noticed this morning that I think the attorney general had made comments on the question on seeing people laying blocks.
“With regard to The Pointe, there have been applications processed in the initial phase. They were for labourers.”
“The Ministry of Labour met with China State Construction and we sorted that issue out and the labourers have been reclassified in the appropriate work class section and paying the increased fees that relate to semi-skilled or skilled labourers.”
The labour component at the $200m development has drawn anger from the Bahamian Contractors Association, which has repeatedly called for more Bahamians to be included in the work.
In May, BCA President Leonard Sands called for the renegotiation of The Pointe deal as a result of issues the developer seemed to have with adhering to the agreed workforce ratio.
The heads of agreement between China Construction America and the government states 70 percent of the workers are supposed to be Bahamian and 30 percent should be foreign.
The Department of Labour found in May a disproportionate number of foreign workers to Bahamian workers at the downtown project.
At the time, there were 73 foreign workers and 24 Bahamians working on the site.
Despite this, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said the developers were not in breach of the agreement.
The revelation followed Mr Foulkes’ meeting with Daniel Liu, president of The Pointe, his vice-president and their legal counsel.
While acknowledging the disproportionate work force, Pointe officials said at this present stage of construction, representing the second phase of development, specialised post-tension concrete structure workers are needed to complete this phase in a very short time frame, the minister explained.
These developments were made public after Tribune photographers previously monitored who went on to the construction site and with the exception of three or four Bahamians and a guard at the gates of the development, everyone else appeared to be Chinese.
In both January and February, this newspaper observed workers on the site and it was a similar story. Dozens of Chinese builders walked on to the site every day from a building, which lodges the workers opposite the development, and virtually no Bahamians were anywhere to be seen.