OPPOSITION Leader Andrew Holness says the Portia Simpson Miller-led Government is under an illusion as far as the issues concerning the employment of Chinese nationals on major investment projects in Jamaica are concerned.
"The Jamaicans are industrious people and I believe on projects being executed by the Chinese, there are Chinese labourers working, doing jobs that could very well be done by Jamaicans. That is an issue I am disappointed that you have brushed aside. It is an issue your Government needs to pay special attention to, you are under an illusion," Holness said Tuesday yesterday after he raised the issue with the prime minister in Parliament.
The Opposition leader prefaced his question off concerns, the most recent of which were raised by the Joint Industrial Council (JIC) of the building and construction industry. On Friday JIC blasted the Government for what it said were "egregious and misleading" statements in the media concerning the presence of Chinese workers on construction sites in the island.
The council claimed that it had still photographs and videos showing Chinese workers doing common labourers' work "while many skilled and unskilled (Jamaican) workers are unemployed."
But the prime minister, the latest Government member to comment on the matter, disputed those claims.
"There is no large number of Chinese workers in the country. Let us be very careful the Chinese are very disciplined people and if they get something to do they are going to do it. I do not see anywhere in Jamaica a large quantity of Chinese traversing the streets or communities across the country," she said,
She further discounted comments by Opposition Spokesperson on Labour Pearnel Charles that her Administration, in another life, had negotiated a concession of a 40 per cent employment for Chinese labour on major projects.
"They came to me and they asked for that to continue, I advised them that it was not in their interest, neither security nor otherwise. I would allow 100 per cent Chinese on any project where there is no Jamaicans available. Did your Government negotiate a percentage of Chinese labour on all major Chinese projects?" Charles asked.
"If that exists, it was not negotiated under my Administration. No one would be able to get me to sign all work over to any category or class of persons and you know this and you are touching my heart in a bad way," Simpson Miller said.
"If we continue to have discussions this way, the question I want to ask is, is whether we want to say to the Chinese, do not invest in Jamaica. It would be dangerous for any Government not to protect the interest no matter what investment, of the Jamaican people," she added.
Last week, Labour Minister Derrick Kellier said for the period April 2012 to July 2013, a total 4,098 work permits were issued. He told members of the press that of this number, 1,741 -- or 43 per cent -- were given to Chinese nationals. He further admitted that for a number of these investments such as the ones the Chinese have made in Jamaica, there are conditionalities and employment ratios that are predetermined.