In keeping with the government’s philosophy on progress and fairness in the workplace, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis echoed his stance on the welfare of casual and contract workers and proposed a new system throughout The Bahamas.
The prime minister made his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the $600 million expansion at Grand Bahama Shipyard on Friday, October 27, 2023.
The Transformation Project includes the addition of two new floating dry docks with the highest lifting capacity — the largest in the Western hemisphere — expected to breathe new life into Grand Bahama, creating hundreds more new jobs and positioning the island to become the maritime centre of The Americas upon its completion in 2025.
“The expansion project of the Grand Bahama Shipyard, in collaboration with the Royal Caribbean Group and Carnival Corporation, is about more than just bricks and mortar. It represents our resolute ambition to be a world leader in ship repair, creating numerous opportunities for the people of Grand Bahama,” Prime Minister Davis said.
“Our primary goal is to catalyze quality career paths for Grand Bahamians. That involves bringing in new jobs, and also re-thinking our approach to employment within this arena.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that over the years, the issue of casual labour has not escaped government’s attention.
“Many of these hardworking individuals, while playing a critical role in our industries, have not enjoyed the benefits, security, and stability that permanent workers do,” he said.
“They have faced challenges, ranging from lack of insurance to the inability to secure job letters. They have struggled to secure credit, obtain loans, or access other financial services that many would consider a fundamental benefit of employment.”
The prime minister said that a regrettable reality is that casual labour, as it has been carried out, has curbed prospects of economic security – impeding dreams of property investment, entrepreneurship, and further education, while further pointing out that the issue is not unique to Grand Bahama, and the shipyard has seen its share of challenges in this regard.
As government makes progress on the implementation of the ILO Decent Work Programme, Prime Minister Davis said it recognizes the gaps in the legislation when it comes to casual work and he reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to bridging that gap.
“My administration will do whatever it takes to ensure these hardworking individuals are afforded the dignity and financial security they rightfully deserve. With the completion of this redevelopment, we anticipate an increase in the pool of permanent workers. This means more stability and security for our Bahamian workforce,” he said.
“We also propose a new system for contract workers. We envision a process where, after a designated period or based on their performance, these workers transition to full-time roles with all the attendant benefits. The government is driving this change, and we encourage you to draw on our Public Service Professional Engagement programme for inspiration. The program is intended to create permanent opportunities for participants at the end of a one-year period. We suggest a similar model that creates a career path to a permanent job for contract and casual workers.”
Building on the partnership with the Grand Bahama Shipyard, Royal Caribbean Group and Carnival Corporation, Prime Minister Davis said government intends to set a new gold standard for worker welfare and rights.
“An essential aspect of any collaboration is mutual respect and a shared commitment to the welfare of the people at its core. We’re not just investing in bricks, metal, and advanced technology; we’re investing in the dreams, hopes, and the future of every Grand Bahamian. With this expansion, we reinforce our promise to prioritize the welfare of every individual, especially those who have historically been in the shadows,” he said.