40% of workforce for airport expansion to be Guyanese

- remainder to come from China

The firm contracted for the US$138 million expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri says that at least 40% of the workforce for the project will be made up of local workers, while the balance will come from China.

Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Senior Business Development Manager of China Harbour and Engineering Company Inc (CHEC) Colvin Heath-London said that the positions advertised for in Guyana’s media are just a small percentage of the Guyanese contingent to be working on the site.

China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (Guyana) recently advertised vacancies for a quality assurance and quality control engineer, an occupational health and safety and environmental engineer, a secretary, a driver, a human resources officer and a cleaner.

According to the contract between the Government of Guyana and CHEC for the project, the contractor agrees to use local nationals and make sure the proportion of Chinese labour and local nationals will be not less than the ratio of 6:4, except for special technically-skilled labour.

It says, “The employer shall provide all assistance reasonably requested by the contractor for the purpose of obtaining any necessary work permits. The employer shall act in good time to obtain such work permits as are necessary for the timely execution of the works.”

The contract also says that the employer will permit the contractor to import professional and technical personnel as considered necessary for the work. It further says that the employer will issue work permits for all professional and technical personnel upon application request from the contractor.

The employment of only non-national Chinese labour on the actual construction of the Marriott Hotel has angered local labour groups and opposition political parties.

The government’s point man on the Marriott, CEO of Atlantic Hotels Inc Winston Brassington has cited productivity and skills concerns as the justification for the decision. He has also said that the government was able to negotiate downwards the cost of building the hotel because of the use of Chinese labour. Critics have questioned this assertion and called for more information to substantiate this.

CHEC drew adverse publicity here over the secrecy in which its contract was agreed and because the first mention of the expansion project came in a Jamaican newspaper. Further, on a visit to Guyana to address concerns related to its parent company being flagged by the World Bank, officials from CHEC sought to clear the air and put to rest fears. However, the opposition parties in Guyana were not on the list of stakeholders CHEC met on that visit and this did not go down well with main opposition A Partnership for National Unity.

On November 18, 2011, CHEC announced in the Jamaica Observer newspaper that it had secured a contract for a modern terminal for the CJIA, Timehri. Prior to that report, the Government of Guyana had made no announcement of the award.

A Government Informa-tion Agency statement, issued later that day said that Cabinet had approved a US$138 million design and construction contract with CHEC.

The China Exim Bank will fund the construction of the modern terminal building and the extension of the runway by 1,066 metres to reach a total of 3,336 metres at the airport. The design is likely to feature eight air bridges, improved lighting, parking spaces, fire fighting and sewage management systems and better illumination and control systems.

The duration of the works is 32 months, according to the contract. London advised that at present the project is in the design review phase and according to London, it will be completed as per the schedule.

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