THE Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) says it is giving its full backing to the Public Procurement Order, 2021, under which the Government plans to carry out the Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project.

According to president of the union, Senator Kavan Gayle, the trade unions involved in the building and construction should welcome the order, especially the provisions which will enhance cooperation between them and multinational contractors in terms of how Jamaican workers are treated in the future.

He said that the agreement creates a “watershed moment” for the unions representing all levels of Jamaican construction workers – the BITU, the National Workers Union (NWU) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) – which have been making representation for major overseas contractors, including China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC), to apply the agreements made at the level of the Joint Industrial Council (JIC), which includes local contractors, without success.

“This order, which compels CHEC to observe the JIC agreements which set the standards for Jamaicans working in the local building and construction industry, will require CHEC, as well as its subcontractors, to observe the conditions in which construction they are asked to work,” Senator Gayle said.

“We take note of the long-standing framework agreement, which is something that should have been resolved years ago, to ensure that our construction workers are treated equally. It will now have to be observed by all contractors, including CHEC. This has been a long-standing cry from the BITU and other unions that has been ignored by successive Administrations,” he said.

He noted that the order will also ensure that both skilled and unskilled workers in the sector benefit from the basic minimum standards in terms of wages and other conditions of their employment, which will now be entrenched in the new framework agreement.

He said that the union is satisfied with the intent of the order to instruct that the employment of unskilled overseas workers will be limited to only 10 per cent, and the employment of skilled (technical) workers limited to 50 per cent, as in the past there was no limit to the numbers.

Gayle said that it is obvious that the 50 per cent limit will not continue forever, because the order requires that Jamaicans be trained, in the meantime, to acquire the skills that are lacking. On completion of the training, which will fall under the HEART Trust/NSTA (National Service and Training Agency), they will be given certification which will make it much easier for them to obtain employment on these projects in the future.

Jamaica Observer