By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
NON-Bahamian labourers on The Pointe’s construction site triple the number of Bahamian workers at the downtown Nassau development, an investigation into its work force complement has revealed.
A Department of Labour report, according to Labour Minister Dion Foulkes, says there are 73 foreign workers and 24 Bahamians presently working on the site.
Asked whether this supported the view that The Pointe’s developers – China Construction America – were in breach of the specified worker ratio of 70 Bahamians to 30 foreigners detailed in the heads of agreement, Mr Foulkes said: “They are not in breach.”
It is unclear if Mr Foulkes meant the clause concerning worker numbers applies to the entire site inclusive of the British Colonial Hilton’s present staff and not just the construction site.
When contacted for his view yesterday, Bahamas Contractors Association (BCA) President Leonard Sands rejected the suggestion that the clause may apply to the project as a whole, adding the HOA applies to construction.
He said while the developer is only needing specialised foreign workers, the government should consider only awarding CCA a portion of the agreed upon concessions. This, he said, is only right until the full complement of Bahamians are employed on the project.
The revelation follows Mr Foulkes’ meeting on Wednesday 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.
This was previously reported by The Tribune and drew the ire of the BCA. The organisation believes Bahamians could have facilitated all phases of the project and has strongly criticised the government over the situation.
In a press statement, Mr Foulkes said: “A report produced by the Department of Labour, with respect to the composition of the workforce at the project, was presented for review and response.
“The report reveals that there are 73 non-Bahamian workers and 24 Bahamians presently on site. The heads of agreement calls for a 70 per cent Bahamian/30 per cent non-Bahamian workforce composition.
“The explanation noted is that the present stage of construction, representing the second phase of The Pointe development, is the erection of the superstructure. This requires specialised post-tension concrete structure workers to complete this phase in a very short time frame.
“Qualified Bahamians have and continue to be sought,” Mr Foulkes’ statement continued. “In the following phases, substantially more Bahamian workers and contractors will be engaged in order to comply with the overall 70 per cent Bahamian/30 per cent non-Bahamian workforce composition. The Pointe development construction is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2020.
“With factors related to the technical aspects of the present construction phase and the expected long-term buildup of Bahamian workers, the Ministry of Labour has concluded that The Pointe development is not in breach of the heads of agreement. The British Colonial Hotel complex also owned by the developer of The Pointe, has two non-Bahamian workers and 275 Bahamian employees.
“Upon completion, The Pointe development will boast 500 full-time Bahamian workers. The Ministry of Labour, and by extension, the Department of Labour, remains committed to employment and contractual opportunities for Bahamians.”
In mid-April, The Tribune reported that around 100 Chinese nationals remained in the country following the completion of The Pointe’s parking garage for specialised purposes.
The workers, this newspaper was told, were tasked with laying an apparent intricate steel foundation for the next phase of the project.
This came as developers erected additional material to obstruct the view of ongoing work on the compound.
At the time, Mr Sands accused CCA of using this as a means to “hide something” from Bahamians. He said the BCA was also considering a demonstration at The Pointe.
Until yesterday, the government had not been forthcoming with information on the workforce numbers.
“The Bahamian Contractors Association is questioning how it was allowed to get to this point in the first instance because that is a dereliction of duty,” Mr Sands said last month.
“If you have a duty to ensure that someone lives up to their contractual agreement it is your job to put in place a procedure for checking to ensure that the heads of agreement guidelines are met and held.
“It should not be an association or private citizen or non-governmental agency to go and find that out for you.
“Let’s say they are in violation, what do they get? Do they get a change to hire some more persons so the ratio is what it should be? How is that process going to roll out? Do they have a PSA that says right now we have a certain number of Chinese and we need hundreds more Bahamians?
“That needs to happen immediately or else the project needs to cease until they become compliant. We need to know how that is going to work.”
He had previously demanded a head count of those working at The Pointe.
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.