The ILA Delivers Much Needed Assistance To The Dockworkers OF Freeport Grand Bahamas After Hurricane Matthew

ILA Vice President Ken Riley Spearheads Humanitarian Relief Effort With Aide From ILWU

Within two days after the deadly and destructive hurricane, Hurricane Matthew, roared across Freeport Grand Bahamas, the ILA was reaching out in solidarity to our dockworkers to assess the damage and to determine what kind of assistance was needed. It was shocking to learn of the extensive damage left in the wake this massive Category 4 hurricane.

Even though there was no loss of life the storm was no less devastating. Two of the container cranes at the Freeport Container Terminal were reduced to rubble and four of the remaining eight cranes were either off the tracks or inoperable for other reasons. Many homes and businesses were destroyed or severely damaged. The single largest employer on the island, the Grand Lucayan Hotel and Resort also sustained significant damage, damages that will result in the facility being closed until sometime in January 2017. Needless to say, with so many businesses closed including the port, the hotels, and the straw market, and with the cruise ships being diverted to other islands the number of unemployed workers in Freeport have skyrocketed.

After receiving a full report of the devastation the ILA began raising funds to support our brothers and sisters of the Bahamas. Our generous and socially conscience brothers and sisters of the ILWU also raised funds for those affected by the storm and submitted them to the ILA. Within three weeks of the storm the ILA was on the ground showing support for the dockworkers and their families. The ILA sponsored a social/dinner in the private dining hall of the Southern Belle Restaurant. This allowed the workers to come out and release some of the stress associated with the aftermath (65 percent of the island was still without power). After enjoying a very lovely dinner with drinks and a lot of laughter, every member in attendance was issued a $100 gift card to largest grocery store on the island to purchase food for their families. The workers who were unable to attend the dinner also received gift cards.

The dockworkers of Freeport Grand Bahamas want to express their sincere appreciation to the ILA for everything they did. They want the ILA brothers and sisters to know that prior to the time the ILA arrived on the island the employer had only given them one bag of ice and a case of bottled water. This demonstrated to them that only people who care about workers are workers, organized workers.

The recovery will be long and difficult for the working people on the island. Tourism, the heart and soul of the Bahamian economy, has all but dried up. It will be weeks before the port will recover. Not many of the businesses are ensured for the damages they sustained. The employees are having to depend on government insurance (unemployment). Brother and sisters, there is no doubt they will need further assistance in the days to come.

God bless the ILA and the ILWU.

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