By EARYEL BOWLEG
THE Department of Labour is not happy with the disproportionate number of foreign workers to Bahamians at The Pointe's construction site, Director of Labour John Pinder said.
There are 264 foreign labourers to 90 Bahamian workers at site, Mr Pinder told this newspaper.
According to a Department of Labour inspection report at the construction site completed at the end of last year, there were 229 Chinese workers and only 90 Bahamians; 35 people of other nationalities were working on the site as well as two Bahamian companies.
In the Heads of Agreement between China Construction America (CCA), The Pointe's developer, and the government, it states that 70 percent of the workers are supposed to be Bahamian and 30 percent should be foreign.
Mr Pinder said he has sent a team every month to try do a headcount to see if Pointe officials are complying.
Mr Pinder explained what Pointe officials have said about the discrepancy: "Some excuse as to language barrier for the phase they're dealing with and it's the reason why you would see more of them but the Bahamians would work all together out on one area - that's what they try to tell you.
"I can assure you that every time we do a count we still see more Chinese workers at The Pointe than we're seeing Bahamian workers.
"When we were there in the middle of last year, there was a complaint that due to the lack of electricity supply to the construction site they weren't able to bring on Bahamians who should've been engaged at that time. That problem has been corrected but I still cannot say safely or assure you that they had increased to reach (an) amount that's been agreed to in the Heads of Agreement."
On Monday, The Tribune did a head count of foreigners leaving the Bay Street construction site and estimated more than 200 Chinese labourers walking from the area to their accommodations across the street. A nearly full yellow school bus was also spotted picking up the foreigners from the site.
One of the Chinese workers told this newspaper's photographer to cease taking photos of the site and asked this reporter to stop counting or go somewhere else to do so, as it was scaring the workers.
A Bahamian security guard chimed in, telling The Tribune we were on The Pointe's property, although this reporter and The Tribune's photographer were standing on the sidewalk.
The last headcount this newspaper did was back in January and February of 2018, which revealed dozens of Chinese builders counted but virtually no Bahamians were seen on the site.
In May 2018, after looking into complaints about the Bahamian/foreign worker ratio, the Ministry of Labour said it was told more foreign workers were needed for the "superstructure" stage of construction, which required specialised workers.
"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 ministry said in 2018.
"The Heads of Agreement calls for a 70 per cent Bahamian, and 30 per cent non-Bahamian, workforce composition," it acknowledged. "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 timeframe. Qualified Bahamians have been, and continue to be, sought. In the following phases substantially more Bahamian workers and contractors will be engaged in order to comply with the overall 70 per cent Bahamian, and 30 per cent non-Bahamian, workforce composition."
For his part, Mr Pinder said labour officials cannot do anything as it is a matter for the Department of Immigration to deal with as it is an arrangement detailed in the developers of the Heads of Agreement.
He said: "They still have this Heads of Agreement that is with the Cabinet because China Construction don't apply to the Department of Labour for no work (permit). . .They go straight to immigration.
"So I really don't have much control over that. They don't come to us for no work permit. Maybe one or two in some administration area but not on the construction site."
Mr Pinder added: "We can complain as a Labour Department. We can complain. We could write… It will take the Department of Immigration. . .to go in and say, 'hold on this amount of work permits is above what's in the agreement. We need to reduce it.' And they will determine and they should determine workers they want (to) let go or send back."
It is still expected for construction on the $200 million development to finish in the second quarter of this year and Mr Pinder was informed that some Bahamians are in training for work when the development is completed.
The Tribune contacted Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson on the number of work permits given out, but he was unable to comment as he did not have the number of work permits issued with him at the time. A representative from The Pointe was also contacted, but refused to comment.
Editorial View - Page 4