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Wednesday September 18 2002
She Caribbean Magazine OnlineTropical Traveller Magazine Online


Will Castries Comprehensive make way for hotel?

Craig Barnard: Pushing the envelope with his economic insights?
It must’ve come as a surprise to the select few who were present at Rendezvous on Monday when the resort’s managing director and former SLHTA president, Craig Barnard, revealed his vision not only for his hotel, but for St Lucia.
Barnard, who as a member of the newly launched National Economic Council has been charged with the responsibility of recommending realistic and cost effective measures to boost the island’s economy, rocked the boat with his insights.
“I’m of the view that one day a government will have to close the George Charles airport in order to build what I hope would be a very well considered tourism development along Vigie Beach,” Barnard admitted at Monday’s press briefing. “As we go forward into the future and jobs need to be created, not next year but in the next ten or twenty years, it’s going to have to be done through tourism.”
Taking the bull by the horns, Barnard went even further.
“So the reality probably is that there comes a point in a country’s economy where you can no longer afford to keep a school on a beach front,” Barnard said. “One day we will have to convert . . . let us say, the Castries Comprehensive School, because of the need for revenue. The government needs the cash and that’s what development is about. Some day the Castries Comprehensive School will be a hotel and there will be hotels on the airport, if you think about it. It just has to be!”
Barnard suggested that such a situation would not only create jobs but much-needed wealth for the island through foreign exchange.
Considering the current economic times, is it not risky to pump some $8 million into refurbishment of Rendezvous?
In response to this, the resort’s general manager Nigel Theophilus said doing nothing was an even bigger risk. For him, it was a question of do or die—slip or enhance the holiday experience.
Barnard added that those who are “going through rough times” are those who didn’t have a good product.
Rendezvous’ first phase upgrade, which began on July 8, is expected to be complete by mid-December when the resort will join the five-star ranks. Theophilus said the entire scheme had been carefully planned so that staff would be on holiday during moderate occupancies.
Barnard, seemingly prepared for the sensitive issue of public access to the beach, was quick to point out that there would be no restrictions.
“We’re looking to do this project in a way that is sensitive and fits the needs of the people around us—particularly those in La Clery and Castries,” he said. “We’re more than sensitive to that and we recognise that we’re on a very open beach, the public beach in St Lucia. By common consent, both tourists and locals have their areas on the beach.”
As for the idea of a five-star resort being right next to a cemetery as a result of possible expansion, Theophilus said: “Well, there are no concerns now so I don’t see why there would be concerns in the future. We’ve never had any complaints about Rendezvous being near the cemetery today—operating as a four-star resort—and we do not anticipate any in the future.”
 

Are Employers’ Tactics Killing Labour Code?
Labour Minister Velon John: Are employers ignoring his warning that last February’s consultation extension would be the last?
While American workers and employers celebrated Labour Day on September 2, St Lucia’s employers met, for the umpteenth time, to launch yet another assault on the draft Labour Code, this time to feature over 500 additional “concerns” identified by two hired overseas consultants. Local workers and the unions, on the other hand, stood by, watched and listened.
But while St Lucian workers in the USA joined their employers and New York’s politicians for the Labour Day Parade in Brooklyn, the American media put the spotlight on the workers and their bosses in the richest country on earth.
With the current focus on the financial scandals rocking corporate America, the media researchers calculated that if workers’ wages had kept up with the salaries of their bosses, they would be five times better off today. The research revealed, for example, that if wages grew as fast as the salaries of Americas top CEOs, the hourly wage rate would have been over US$21 per hour, as against the current rate of just over US$4 per hour.
But Caribbean workers, many of whom earn a pittance in comparison to real wage rates in the USA and are denied real wage increases, were jumping-up in the rain with Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki, both of whom were out seeking Caribbean votes for upcoming elections.
There was no such cause for celebration by St Lucia workers and their unions, however, as the nation’s employers once more reaffirmed their opposition to the draft Labour Code. They have made no bones about the fact that they want it killed.
Last February, the government conceded to the umpteenth call by the employers for an extension of the time for “consultations” on the draft code which was prepared with inputs from the government, the Private Sector and the Trade Unions under the guidance of a consultant hired by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Although several rounds of meetings had already been held and several deadlines reached and extensions granted, the Labour Minister granted a further extension of another six months, this time from February to August 2002. He indicated at the time that this would have been the final extension, but it’s now clear—from what they themselves are saying today—that the employers either did not take the minister seriously or they simply dismissed him altogether.
Any observers would have noted that a clear pattern has developed during the past two years that has clearly indicated employers were simply employing delaying tactics and “playing for time.”
During the over two years of “consultations” the private sector leaders have increased their number of “concerns” about the 12-chapter draft code from 245 to the phenomenal number of 688. The two hired guns have blasted holes right through the document. At an average of 22 per chapter, they claim to have discovered three times the amount of “concerns” found by the local private sector’s own lawyers—who also helped draft the Draft Code as part of the ILO-guided process. (The employers say they have already spent over $250,000 to tabulate their hundreds of “concerns”.)
I’ve heard all that the employers have had to say on the Labour Code since the consultation process began and from what they have said each time, I have come to the definite conclusion that they are simply out to use delaying tactics with the hope that they can summon enough opposition to eventually kill the code dead.
I mean, how else to describe a process that throws up almost 700 concerns about a document twelve chapters long—and in which they too had a significant input?
If the employers really want to be ridiculous and simply concentrate on producing an endless list of concerns, there are “consultants” right here who can give them a thousand—and for less than the price they paid. (For example, I’m sure if I ask “constitutional lawyer” Martinus Francois for a list of a thousand things that he’s concerned about regarding the Constitution of Saint Lucia, he will deliver, providing he is adequately compensated.) After all, even former Director of Culture Jacques Compton has found so many faults with the way the Bible is written that he wants to see it re-written altogether. And he’s got support from Frank Girard.
The thing is that before the Draft Labour Code, there was already a Labour Code in existence which the employers never seem to have bothered with. Besides, the consultant who guided the exercise was hired, not by the Prime Minister or the Government of St Lucia, but by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which is a branch of the United Nations. And further, it is my understanding that much of what the employers are concerned about is already law—a fact that has eluded the scrutiny of the private sector’s two hired guns.
The Draft Code is a document to guide the tripartite social partners: the government, the trade unions and the employers’ organisations. However, observers have noted that the only social partners persistently finding fault so far have been the employers. And by their procrastination, it is clear they want the status quo to remain.
But not too far behind the employers are some of my colleagues in the media—those who can’t hear a pin drop without looking for a way to blame the government. And they have wasted no time picking up the employers’ line that the document is not good enough.
The employers called a lunchtime meeting to announce their latest “findings” about the Labour Code and even before the meeting got under way, just as lunch was about to be served, I heard a seasoned media colleague pronouncing on his station’s lunchtime news edition that the Prime Minister’s “words” about the Labour Code “can prove embarrassing” to him. And coverage of the issue so far has concentrated on what the employers’ position is, rather than how all three social partners think.
I have absolutely no doubt what the employers want to do with the Labour Code. And from the things they have already started saying about the consultant appointed by the UN to draft the Labour Code, I have no doubt that the next step in their plan is to inject a political dimension that will involve targeting the ILO consultant and the fact that she is the Prime Minister’s wife.
It’s now for the trade unions and the government—the other two partners in the tripartite arrangement—to decide what their next step will be in the circumstances.
As for me, I maintain that the employers are out to kill the Labour Code dead, dead, dead. And the more delaying tactics I see, the more I am convinced.
How on earth the employers’ organisations want St Lucia to meet the challenges of globalisation with a plethora of backward and antiquated labour laws is beyond my comprehension. How they can be ready to comply with other aspects of international law and refuse to accept international labour and health standards beats me even more. Now the employers are seeking to draw a dividing line between what the Prime Minister says and what the Labour Minister says—as if the two are not in sync on the issue.
It is ridiculous, if not mischievous, if not sinister, for the employers to suggest that the Prime Minister gave them the impression he was in no hurry to see the Labour Code passed or to suggest that the Labour Minister does not know what the Prime Minister wants.
The Labour Minister’s warning last February that the six-month extension to the end of August and the new deadline would be the last was obviously not taken seriously by the employers. For that they should blame themselves. They cannot expect the government to continue to facilitate these lengthy and interminable delays in the name of consultations that only result in providing more reasons or excuses for requesting more time for more new arguments and concerns to be added to what already exists. If the government and the unions continue to facilitate this game, when will it end?
I am not at all fooled by this Tom Foolery. I’ve been around too long not to know deliberate obstruction when I see it.
And further, as the saying goes, I’m too old a cat to be fooled by a kitten.
 

Police officer sets sights on DPP post
Set for UK training: Constable Giovanni James
Police constable Giovanni James, 22, of Desruisseaux was named most outstanding recruit when he graduated two years ago from the Royal St Lucian Police Force Training School.
Since then he has worked at both Central and Gros Islet Police Stations, but all that is about to change.
Giovanni was scheduled to leave the island Sunday bound for London where he is set to study for a law degree at Holborn College.
The young officer said in a telephone interview that since the age of 13 he had always wanted to be a police officer because of an incident that happened in Micoud.
“A man got shot and the way the whole incident was handled left a lasting impression on my mind. I believe that law and order are not only necessary but vital to the socio-economic growth and development of our country. My goal is to become a Director of Public Prosecutions,” said Giovanni.
A former student of St Mary’s and the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, Giovanni said he wished to thank his family, teachers and instructors at the training school for the way in which they had expressed confidence in him one way or another and supported his endeavour to become an “effective public prosecutor within a reformed and fully professionalised police force.”
 


When it comes to dolphins Chastanet knows best
Set for UK training: Constable Giovanni James
National Development Corporation chairman and entrepreneur Michael Chastanet says world renowned scientist Dr Toni Frohoff “has it all wrong” when it comes to research findings concerning the health of captive dolphins.
Responding to criticism that a proposed swim with the dolphins facility at Tapion Bay could prove detrimental to the wild dolphins developers hope to capture, Mr Chastanet said he “completely disagreed” with statements made by Washington-State-based independent consultant and behavioural biologist, Dr Frohoff, in last Saturday’s STAR.
In a centre spread article, Dr Frohoff, who conducted the first studies of captive dolphin behaviour during swim with the dolphin programmes (1993) and many subsequent studies into human interaction with captive and free-ranging dolphins, said her research concluded that captive dolphins exhibit stress-related behaviours which could potentially lead to long term harm for the animals.
Further, the scientist, recently hired by the Bahamian government to assess and provide recommendations for captive dolphin facilities there, said her research had been supported by a subsequent study conducted by two biologists for the US National Marine Fisheries Services.
She also said that despite excellent veterinary care, a steady diet and a lack of predators at captive facilities, “No studies of which I am aware have demonstrated that the average or maximum life span of dolphins is statistically greater in captivity than in the wild, including the most recent studies, Small and DeMaster 1995 and Woodley et al 1997.”
In fact, she said, the studies had concluded that survivorship rates in captive bottlenose dolphins through the mid 1990s remained persistently lower than in free-ranging animals, although the differences were no longer statistically significant.
“I don’t know where these people are getting their figures from,” Chastanet said in an interview with the STAR yesterday. “If you go to the dolphin parks you can see how healthy these animals are. I have it on good authority that dolphins actually live twice as long in captivity as they do in the wild,” he said. “I have seen other information and other reports.”
“Besides,” Chastanet added, “if it is so wrong to have dolphins in captivity, if it is so threatening to their lives, why are there so many such facilities in the United States?”
Mr Chastanet said he could see no reason why St Lucia should not capitalise on the foreign exchange earning power of a swim with the dolphin facility and that he hoped proposals currently before the Development Control Authority would be approved.
If approved, the US$1 million facility would be developed and operated by Dolphin Fantaseas in partnership with minority shareholders Classic Tours Ltd—a joint venture between Minvielle and Chastanet and Michael Chastanet.
“This facility would be an added attraction for the tourism industry. Not only for the land based, but big time for the cruise ship industry. Because if the people have the opportunity to go to the other islands like Anguilla, Antigua or Jamaica they will save their money to do it there and they will not spend that money in St Lucia,” Mr Chastanet said.
The NDC chairman also hit back at criticism from the St Lucia Whale and Dolphin Watching Association that such a facility would have a negative impact on whale and dolphin watching businesses here.
“These are two separate issues. If you have four dolphins in a pen in the water and you have hundreds of dolphins swimming around outside, how can you really compete?” he asked.
“They are two different attractions. There are some people who want to go and see the dolphins, and there are some people who want to go whale watching. It’s just like you have some tourists who want to go all inclusive and some who want to go EP.”
So what about negative reaction from international animal rights activists?
Mr Chastanet said Dolphin Fantaseas only allowed their dolphins to be “cuddled and caressed” unlike other facilities where tourists were pulled through the water while holding the animals’ dorsal fins. “They don’t want to do that because they believe that part of the dolphins’ programme is stressful. These dolphins will be treated beautifully.”
He continued: “You will always have activists trying to stop these things. I’m not saying for instance that Green Peace is right or wrong, but there are always extremists. Life is like a scale. You will always have people who agree with something and those who disagree with it. Everyone has their own opinion.
“I don’t think we will get any adverse international reaction. Like everything else you will get a few people shouting and screaming. There are animal lovers in the world and you can’t knock the people, everyone is entitled to their views. But at the end of the day, this development will be good for the island.”