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Senior staff reporter @ The Observer—


 Prime Minster Andrew Holness waves to delegates of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) on his arrival at Saturday’s Triennial General Assembly at the Wolmer’s High School for Boys, National Heroes Circle, Kingston. Also in the picture (from left) are: Former BITU vice-president and current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pearnel Charles; President of the BITU Senator Kavan Gayle; and former island supervisor and current trustee, Clifton Stone. —-


PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says the Government has been having discussions with Chinese investors and contractors about maximising local employment on their projects.

Holness said that this would include a commitment to train Jamaicans in the skills for which the foreign firms currently import workers from their home countries, as it would be more profitable to use Jamaican workers than taking labour from China.

“We must make it such that it is unprofitable for the Chinese companies to bring their own labour here because our labor is good enough or better to do the job,” the prime minister told Saturday’s public session of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union’s (BITU) Triennial General Assembly at the Wolmer’s High School for Boys in Kingston.

He was reacting to complaints which had been made by several unions, including the BITU, about conditions, primarily on construction sites operated by Chinese contractors, including a preference for workers imported from China.

Holness pointed out that with only three per cent of GDP available for programs to generate growth, the Government had no option but to seek private investments, including foreign direct investments.

“If the economy is to grow, Jamaica cannot grow on the three per cent of GDP available to us. We have to find smart ways of dealing with foreign direct investments, and one of the biggest foreign investors in Jamaica right now is China. So we have to contend with Chinese investments,” he said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

However, he noted that the investments sometimes have conditions, including the need for Chinese labor with certain technical skills. But he said that this is allowed only in areas where Jamaicans do not have the skills or the competence that is needed.

“It has always been the case that when Chinese investments are being done, that it meets up to and complies with the standards set in Jamaica. And every Chinese company that comes here has to interact with the Government, if it is on a bilateral level they are doing the projects, and I am ensuring that the message goes out to them. But they point out to me, sometimes, that there may be some technical skills needed in some areas.

“So here is what I am saying to the minister of labour and to my Cabinet: We must make it such that it is unprofitable for the Chinese companies to bring their labour here, because our labor is good enough or better to do the job.

“It can’t be that you have to fly in hundreds of workers half-way around the world, pay to keep them here and still do the job more profitably than if you were using Jamaican labor. That shouldn’t be the case. So the Government has a duty to ensure that our labor is trained, that our labor is certified and that our labor also not only has the competence, but the discipline,” Holness said.

He told the meeting that he has been speaking with the Chinese companies, and that the Government has said that, in terms of projects going forward, there must be a training component.

“… If it’s new technology being used, or new practices or new techniques, our workers must learn them. Our workers must come up to scratch so that the next [round] of projects the Chinese company can’t say to us that the need is in this area of skill, or that area of skill, because we would have had all our workers trained in a structured way, waiting to fill the positions,” he stated.

“So being involved in foreign direct investments is inevitable. It must happen and it is going to happen it is in our interest but it is not necessary that at all times the investment has to be tied to the importation of labor.


“If our workers are working efficiently and productively it will always be more profitable to use Jamaican labor, and we are going to make it so by the efficiency, the productivity and the discipline of the workers who are hired on Chinese construction projects, or any other project for that matter,” added the prime minister.

Holness also explained that the training program being considered by the government would also have a component of personal and character development, and related to an understanding of punctuality and job discipline, “and getting to the point where they understand that work is not a joke business: work is serious business.

“Once that mentality starts to pervade the labor force, then there is no investor that is going to come here and want to carry their own labor. They are going to say that Jamaican labor is the best labor,” added the prime minister.

“I have all the confidence that we can do it because when I travel elsewhere, I visit plants where Jamaicans are working and the managers say to me, ‘Jamaicans are the best workers.. If we can do it abroad, we can do it at home,” he said.


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