Since delivering his Ministerial address to the local Parliament Last Tuesday, Vincentian Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves’ projected 200 hospitality jobs for qualified Vincentians at the all-inclusive Turks and Caicos Islands’ Beaches Resorts has come under heavy fire.
Especially given that MP Arlington Musgrave, the newly minted TCI Minister of Immigration, Citizenship, Labour and Employment Services weighed in on the issue via a media release that was recently published here.
In that statement MP Musgrave denied his government’s participation in any negotiation that would effectively give away 200 jobs “when we have so many Turks and Caicos Islanders who are out of work presently.”
MP Gonsalves, in an exclusive ANN interview, drilled down on his projection while referencing an article by the Jamaica Observer in which Sandals Resorts International announced its intention to “ramp up its long-established Team Member Exchange Programme and seek to grow its staff from 15,000 to 20,000” over the next four years.
He told ANN, “over the weekend, I have been in communication with both Sandals Resorts and representatives of the government of the TCI, although not Minister Musgrove. I have also seen that Sandals has publicly announced the exchange programme to which I alluded last week.
“I certainly support the idea that a pan-Caribbean company like Sandals will utilise its presence throughout our region to facilitate employment opportunities and experience for Caribbean nationals.
“I am pleased that the company is investing so heavily in the region at a time when COVID has seriously upended the tourism and hospitality sector. It is a tremendous vote of confidence in the future of Caribbean tourism that Sandals is expanding in TCI, Curacao and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
“There are currently many Vincentians working at Sandals properties across the Caribbean, including St Lucia, Antigua, Grenada and Barbados. The company has told me that they are proud of their Vincentian staff, and the diverse staffs at their respective resorts.
“In our own agreement with Sandals, provision is made for them to rotate staff into Beaches St Vincent and the Grenadines, for training purposes, and to ensure the highest quality service to customers. That staff rotation will occur from other islands and Sandals reports.
“Of course, these things are subject to the issuance of work permits for those workers that are not within the OECS and/or CARICOM, depending on the level of the employee.”
Finance Minister Gonsalves further assured us that there is no bad blood between his government which was returned to office after winning its 5th consecutive term last November and the TCI’s governing Progessive National Party which took 14 of the 15 seats in the February 19, 2021 General Elections.
Minister Gonsalves said, “the new administration in the TCI has quite rightly raised the issue of local unemployment in this COVID period. I am sure that the new resort there, which, I am advised, will have over 1,000 staff, will make a sizeable dent in that unemployment, given the population and work force of the TCI. Similarly, we look forward to the Beaches Resort in SVG making a major contribution to employment here.
“As I indicated previously, Sandals wants to make Vincentian workers a part of this Caribbean-wide programme. We are grateful that Sandals values Vincentian workers and is as committed as we are to the ideas of regional integration, the movement of people and skills, and in developing Caribbean brands of which we can all be proud.”
Although he would not specify a more precise timeline for the roll out of these job offers than he has previously alluded to, Minister Gonsalves noted, “we eagerly look forward to large numbers of talented Vincentians joining the Sandals team in the very near future and contributing to the growth of this world-class corporation.”