Good Morning, Grand Bahama!
Today marks a major milestone in the story of this island. The ground upon which we stand is set to become the very epicentre of a $600 million transformation.
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.
Our primary goal is to catalyse quality career paths for Grand Bahamians.
That involves bringing in new jobs, and also re-thinking our approach to employment within this arena.
Today, I’m here to address a topic that deeply resonates with our ethos of progress and fairness: the welfare of our casual and contract workers.
Over the years, the issue of casual labour has not escaped our 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. 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 result: a terrible financial trap.
The 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.
This issue is not unique to Grand Bahama, but the shipyard has seen its share of challenges in this regard.
The story of the worker who lost an eye testifies to the changes we need. As we make progress on the implementation of the ILO Decent Work Programme, we recognize the gaps in our legislation when it comes to casual work. Today, I reaffirm our commitment to bridging this 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.
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. This 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.
The Grand Bahama Shipyard transformation is not just about improved infrastructure or the expanded ability to repair large vessels, it’s about investing in our greatest asset – our people. The expansion of the shipyard’s apprenticeship program, for instance, is a testament to our commitment to our people. Developing 16-20 new apprentices every year ensures that our young talent is primed for current and future opportunities.
This is in line with my government’s establishment of a new unit within the Department of Labour to ensure that Bahamians are trained to fill roles currently held by foreigners. This initiative, as I mentioned in the House of Assembly, is a major move forward in protecting our workers and upholding Bahamianization policies.
For half a century, we have worked with the giants of this industry, providing world-class service. Not only have Bahamians stepped up to contribute to the success of this operation, but, internationally, there is a trust that has developed – a belief that The Bahamas and its people provide the highest levels of service. With this expansion and redevelopment, we will further realize our vision for Grand Bahama as an industrial powerhouse.
Project by project, investment by investment, we are contributing to a better Grand Bahama. This project is expected to bring in new jobs, support relevant entrepreneurial endeavours, and provide high-quality, stable, and decent work for many people in Grand Bahama.
My government remains committed to working together with the people of Grand Bahama to tap into the true potential of this island and its people.
We are making the necessary investments to lay the foundation for the turnaround that the Grand Bahamian economy and people are ready for.
Our cherished relationship with the Royal Caribbean Group and Carnival Corporation has been a testament to the strength of collaborations, partnerships, and the power of shared vision. This grand endeavour that we embark upon today, the expansion of the Grand Bahama Shipyard, is symbolic of our unwavering faith in the spirit of Grand Bahama and the potential it holds. It’s not just a business venture; it’s a partnership in every sense of the word – one that prioritizes the well-being and aspirations of every Grand Bahamian.
Building on this partnership, we intend 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.
It is the people who breathe life into projects, who transform visions into reality, and it is the people, above all, who remain at the heart of our shared goals. As we usher in this transformative era for Grand Bahama, let us remember that partnerships like these aren’t just about business growth – they are about community growth, about nurturing the aspirations of every individual, and about weaving a chapter of progress that will be remembered for generations to come.
Thank you, Grand Bahama, for your trust, resilience, and for being the cornerstone of this magnificent journey ahead. Let’s continue to build, together.
My friends, the best days of Grand Bahama are still ahead.
Thank you and God Bless you.