Hutchison Whampoa Officials Concerned About Grand Bahama Investments
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said Hutchison Whampoa officials have expressed to the government several concerns about their investments in Grand Bahama, including the issue of the Our Lucaya Resort’s relationship with the union.
Ingraham was speaking to members of the media at the British Colonial Hilton in New Providence, and said during his recent meeting with company executives in China, there was a discussion about the extent to which they are having to pump money into the resort to sustain it.
“There was also concern expressed on their part of some of the issues related to their relationship with the trade union. I promised to talk to the hotel union executives about some of their concerns,” Ingraham said.
The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) is currently being challenged as the bargaining agent for that property by the Commonwealth Union, led by Michelle Dorsett.
The latter union is awaiting word from the Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes on when a poll will be allowed for the workers to vote on the union of their choice.
The BHCAWU has been plagued with troubles for some time, with elections having been ordered three times after much contention over the results.
Despite the outcome of the final election, executives of the Commonwealth Union claim that the majority of employees at the resort are in favour of their organization, which they say can better represent the workers’ needs.
The BHCAWU General Secretary Darrin Woods has said that union executives were open to the poll and that if the workers indicate that they want the Commonwealth Un-ion to represent them, they would accept their wishes and leave.
Monday, Ingraham said Hutchison Whampoa executives also spoke of other concerns.
“They also raised a number of other issues, whether it has to do with air transport to the Grand Bahama, other cost-related matters which the Ministry of Tourism will review for me and we will get back to them,” the Prime Minister said.
“They (Hutchison Whampoa) are still high on Grand Bahama but there are some concerns that they have that we have to seek to sort out.”
Despite a recent hike in airport fees, Ingraham said he had no discussions with the company, which also owns the Grand Bahama Airport Com-pany (GBAC) and the Free-port Harbour Company, about the possibility of lowering such fees or those related to cruise ship dockage.
Effective November 1, 2010, the GBAC increased its Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) fees from $1.50 round trip to $3.50 per departure and $3.50 per arrival for all passengers travelling on or after that date.
For incoming flights from Nassau to Freeport there is a PFC of $10 and a GBAC service fee of $5 for passengers on flights from Freeport to Nassau. In total, the fees would amount to $22.
Prior to this increase, it had been claimed by some that the fees being levied by the Grand Bahama Airport Company and the Freeport Harbour Com-pany were higher than that of competing tourist destinations, contributing to the decline in arrivals.
During Monday’s briefing, Ingraham did say that he was able to discuss with Hutchison Whampoa’s leaders the government’s intensive medium to long-term strategies to in-vigorate Grand Bahama, hoping to improve its competitiveness and build on the success of its industrial sector.
By K. Nancoo-Russell