The Executive Vice President of the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA), Noorani Azeez, has spoken on today’s strike by a group of construction workers at a hotel project in the North of the Island.
Azeez has made it clear that the SLHTA is sympathetic to the plight of any worker who feels unfairly treated.
“We certainly encourage them to access the institutions that are in place to ensure that they are fairly treated,” he told the Times.
An estimated forty local workers at the site of the former Smugglers Cove hotel went on strike claiming that they had been short changed.
Smugglers Cove has been acquired by Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts which is building a new property at the Cap Estate site.
The local construction workers have asserted that foreign workers, including Jamaicans, Guyanese, Trinidadians, Dominicans and Colombians, number some six hundred and are getting better treatment.
The sub-contractor with whom the protesting workers were employed, said that the company that hired them agreed to pay up and send all forty strikers home.
SLHTA Executive Vice President, Noorani Azeez, told the Times that the issue of industrial action and the plight of workers is not lost on the agencies responsible for monitoring and ensuring that there is fair play in access to employment.
However Azeez noted that at times matters need to be put into context.
He said it was important to note that sometimes the construction of certain properties in the tourism industry requires access to specialized skills from workers who are familiar with the technology, fabric and materials that are being used.
Azeez explained that sometimes, that makes a strong case for importing those skills which may not be resident locally.
He observed that too often one of the issues that gets ignored is the fact that apart from the specialized skills required for some properties, there are some properties that are doing a phenomenal job of ensuring that a larger number of their work force are Saint Lucians.
The SLHTA Executive President mentioned by way of example, the Harbour Club.
He asserted that almost all the construction workers there are Saint Lucians.
“As an SLHTA we certainly celebrate those types of gains and want to ensure that our training and development system in Saint Lucia responsible for putting out skilled employees become more tuned with the demands of the hospitality and tourism industry, so that these workers are familiar with some of the emerging technologies that new properties will employ in their construction,” Azeez told the Times.
The SLHTA official observed that in the interest of free movement of labour, Caribbean people have to begin to understand that their career opportunities are not contained within the boundaries of their own Island.
“Given what the OECS and Cariconm have been allowing in terms of movement of labour, our people have to understand that there are opportunities even beyond our shores that we can start vying for,” Azeez explained.
He referred to the days when Guyana “celebrated” Saint Lucian workers on its shores, noting that the tides have probably turned now with newer economies showing more and greater opportunity.
Azeez explained that Caribbean people have enjoyed moving from territory to territory to get employment opportunities.
“That is what has made us so diverse and so rich and so sensitive to each other’s history, because we have become so intermingled and so intertwined.”
Azeez stated that Caribbean people need to be aware that the days of thinking about opportunities merely at home are over.
“We have to be very careful about how we criticize our neighbouring Islands when they capture employment opportunities in Saint Lucia,” he cautioned, adding that there are many Saint Lucians plying their trade in other Islands.
“We certainly would not like for them to be treated with any degree of inequality or inequity either,” the SLHTA Executive Vice President declared.