Fri | Aug 18, 2017

More concerns at Negril hotel project

Published:Tuesday | March 15, 2016 | 3:00 AMAdrian Frater

WESTERN BUREAU:

It would appear that the questionable sand mining, which has outraged the Negril Chamber of Commerce and has seemingly left the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) with much to explain, is not the only major issue at the controversial hotel project in the popular resort town.

A contractor on the multimillion-dollar project, which is said to be an initiative of Mexican investors, but is being undertaken by the Chinese firm COMPLANT, told Western Focus recently that he was quite concerned about the vast number of Chinese workers who were brought in to do simple tasks, which Jamaican workers could manage easily.

"When I look at the level of unemployed in Jamaica at this time, it bothers me to see Chinese workers being brought in to do simple little tasks, like laying building blocks," the contractor, who asked not to be identified, said.

"I would hate to believe that our Government is giving the Chinese work permits to come here to lay building blocks ... . That is something that our Jamaican workers can do and should be doing," he added.

The contractor said that unlike some of the other Chinese projects, where bringing in workers forms part of the deal signed with the Jamaican Government, the Negril project is being done by Mexican investors, albeit that it is being undertaken by COMPLANT.

JAMAICANS 'SIDELINED'

"While the Negril Chamber has latched on to the sand-mining issue, we also need to talk about the fact that Jamaican workers are being sidelined in such a scandalous way," the contractor said. "We need to know why work permits are being given to Chinese to do work Jamaicans can do.

"There is a similar project being done in Montego Bay at this tim,e and over 90 per cent of the workers are Jamaicans, so it is not a question that Jamaicans can't manage most of the jobs on these sites ... . It is simply a case of our workers being bypassed to facilitate foreigners," the contractor added.

In 2014, Rudyard Spencer, who was the opposition spokesman on labour at the time, told members of parliament examining the Estimates of Expenditure, during a meeting of the Standing Finance Committee, that there were persons on worksites locally doing jobs that Jamaicans could be hired to carry out. However, he did not provide details, citing "diplomatic sensitivity".

"I am really uncomfortable seeing Jamaicans construction workers struggling to find jobs while we are bringing in Chinese workers on a Jamaican worksite ... . Something is fishy and it warrants an investigation," the contractor stated.

The activities at the Negril hotel project came to the fore last year when the Negril Chamber of Commerce raised an alarm about sand mining at the site, which they consider to be quite inappropriate, especially against the background of the town's worrisome beach erosion concerns.

adrian.frater@gleanerjm.com