By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Prime Minister yesterday said the Government's drive for "economic dignity" had resulted in Freeport Container Port reducing the number of "casual" employees in its workforce to 24 percent.
Philip Davis QC, leading the 2022-2023 Budget debate in the House of Assembly, said the Grand Bahama-based industrial operator had reduced this proportion from the 43 percent threshold that existed when the Government met with it in January 2022.
Noting that their "casual" status was preventing these workers from qualifying for mortgages and other forms of credit, as well as denying them benefits and holiday leave, he added: "At the end of January I had a meeting with the management of the Freeport Container Port. During the meeting, I shared with them that the practice of hiring Bahamians as casual workers rather than employing them as permanent staff was having a large, and negative, impact for those workers.
"The casual workers had no security, no benefits, no leave, no ability to enter into credit arrangements. I want to thank Freeport Container Port, and hold them up as a model for others in Grand Bahama and others in the private sector across our country, because they came back to see me this week to say that as a result of my advocacy and our dialogue, they have made substantial progress in converting a number of casual workers to permanent workers.
"When we met in January, 43 percent of their staff complement were casual labourers. That number has now been reduced to 25 percent, and they intend to reduce it further. Madam Speake, these workers now have increased take-home pay, increased job security and benefits, including access to creditable financing," Mr Davis continued.
"This is what socially responsible corporate leadership looks like. This is what a positive, productive partnership between Government and the private sector looks like. This is what competent, compassionate leadership looks like."
Describing "economic dignity" for all Bahamians as his "guiding principle", the Prime Minister added: "Everyone matters. We all want to live lives of purpose and meaning; we all want to take care of the people we love. No one who reflects on God’s love for all of us could believe that the size of our dreams for our children should depend on the size of our bank accounts.
"This is why partnerships, and dialogue and collaboration matter. We all have a role to play in knocking down barriers so that everyone can participate meaningfully in our economy and in our civic life. And whereas complete economic equality may be impossible, what is achievable, and morally compelling, is to protect for everyone the most natural equality, the right to the greatest joys in life: the births of one’s children, the companionship of a loving partner, the love of family and friends, and the lifting up of human fulfilment."