A local striping company is calling for an inquiry into foreign workers currently working on the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP).
Bahamas Striping, which started more than two years ago and has trained several Bahamians in striping, is questioning how foreigners are allowed work permits to work on jobs that Bahamians are capable of doing.
Bahamas Striping President Atario Mitchell said he would like Labour and Immigration officials to look into whether the foreigners are adhering to prescribed regulations and the circumstances under which these foreigners received work permits.
He also wants the National Insurance Board (NIB) to check into whether they are paying NIB contributions as prescribed by law.
“Many young Bahamians are out of work and underemployed and there are several Bahamian entities that can do this kind of work,” Mr. Mitchell said earlier this week.
“There are three or more all-Bahamian companies that stripe. Were they given a chance to do this work? We ourselves have three young Bahamians on our team who can do this. We also have the equipment. Besides us, there are others who have worked with professional striping companies. This is a very serious matter when foreigners are needlessly displacing young Bahamians who need to feed their families and pay their bills.”
He said foreigners have been striping the road that leads into the new Sports Centre as well as working on the John F. Kennedy enhancement project.
“To our knowledge, as the authorities have told us, temporary permits are supposed to be project-specific,” Mr. Mitchell said.
“You can’t just be skipping round the island working different jobs at the same time. If the permit assigns you to a project, you have to stick to that. That’s what we’ve been told. So how come we see the same guy in different places working two jobs? We’d like to know what percentage of Bahamians is working in these foreign-based striping operations.”
He continued, “We’d like to know whether a training programme has been set up to promote trained Bahamians. We’d also like to know whether NIB has been paid for these foreign workers, as the law says they should.”
Mr. Mitchell said what is more “disturbing” to him is that these foreigners are being brought in to do work that Bahamians can do and have been trained to do.
“This is threatening our livelihoods,” he said. “We can’t even get an inch of striping on the NPRIP. We have never been asked to bid even on a small section. To a reasonable man, this seems like a conspiracy whereby two foreign-based multinationals want it all for themselves and want to throttle the local Bahamians from getting a chance to grow.”
“The last straw was when Jose Cartellone Construction Company confessed in front of Mott McDonald and Ministry of Works officials that they never had any intention of giving us any work. All they were doing is dragging us along pretending and getting our business information to pass to their UK-based striping buddies.”
Mr. Mitchell is calling on authorities to look into this situation and help protect local jobs for Bahamians.