August 18, 2022

[Bahamas] Deputy Prime Minister speaks on Bahamasair pilots’ recent action

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56faaa1e8c2f1f76a1e44d955ce15ba5b894af77_200x243_Q75Statement from the Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Philip ‘Brave’ Davis

Minister with responsibility for Bahamasair

December 28, 2014

The recent unprovoked and unwarranted industrial action taken by the Pilots of the national flag carrier Bahamasair is of great concern to the government of the Bahamas in that the cost and inconvenience to the traveling public calls for immediate action to be taken to avoid further occurrences. I am deeply troubled that Pilots took this unlawful and unwarranted industrial action less than six hours after being informed that the Minister of Labour would take their proposal to Cabinet the following day – nothing was refused, nothing was denied. The fact that they took this action anyway – without even filing a trade dispute clearly indicates it was always their intent to disrupt the airline’s ability to operate.

Over the past two years the government has given considerable effort to securing a strategic partner for Bahamasair, but this gross act of corporate sabotage brings cause for acceleration of the government’s efforts to relieve the Bahamian taxpayer of this heavy financial burden. Moreover, irresponsible and selfish acts of this nature do not provide the shareholder with an incentive to pursue any form of service or route expansion. In fact this behavior demonstrates the need to fully consider the merits of retrenchment as a more realistic course of action. Over its 41 years of existence, Bahamasair received $541 million dollars through June 2013 in subsidies which could have been utilized to build new schools or hospitals, improve infrastructure like roads or harbours, additional personnel and equipment to combat crime or even a new correctional facility. Quite frankly, all concerned must come to grips with the reality that Bahamasair is no longer an essential service.

Major foreign carriers provide for the bulk of tourist traffic into the country and over the past 8 years, 31 local carriers have been licensed to provide scheduled services throughout the archipelago; the domestic landscape has changed dramatically. It is no secret that Bahamasair pilots are paid salaries well in excess of their regional counterparts and utilized (flying hours) considerably less. The facts are, a Senior Jet Captain with Bahamasair makes up to $132,000 annually before overtime. By comparison a Bahamasair Senior Dash 8 Captain makes up to $91,000 which is staggering when considering that his regional equivalent with LIAT airways makes $36,000 annually after 15% income tax. Additionally, Pilots make up only ten percent (10%) of the entire staff at Bahamasair but account for thirty percent (30%) of the payroll; there is something wrong with this picture.

Any right and reasonable thinking person will agree that under these conditions it is unconscionable that the Pilots would take such drastic action at a time when Bahamians with very small incomes are seeking to shop abroad, students are returning home and our main industry tourism is at its peak. The actions of these individuals will be reviewed within the context of the company’s policies and procedures.

I have directed that management provide me with the full costing of the past week’s events. In full view of the costs and embarrassment to the company and the pilots’ insensitivity to the Bahamian people, their recent action may have consumed the limited resources necessary to facilitate our last proposal and may necessitate that we withdraw that proposal. Moreover, the financial impact of recent events is nowhere as damaging as will be the negative publicity received from local and international travelers, which is immeasurable. This may take years to recover from, especially when hearing locals say they will never fly Bahamasair again balanced against the comments of tourists who say “they will never return to the Bahamas”, all as a result of this terrible experience brought on by the actions of a group of selfish individuals.

Nevertheless, the Government, the Board of Directors and the Management of Bahamasair takes this opportunity to extend our sincere and heartfelt thanks to our front line staff of Bahamasair who in the face of extreme pressure continued to give 100% as they serviced the needs of our passengers. I would also like to thank the local carriers that provided assistance during our time of need. Taking into consideration that they are always our competitors, however, in this instance they were patriots and joined us as partners in service to our nation.

 

Related story:

This week in The Bahamas (Dec 22-26) by Elcott Coleby

b53ed39ef42dbe96dfc09c226fe7d69eec52bcc3_200x200_Q75Saturday, 27 December 2014 17:01

From Bahama Islands Info

Sr. Immigration Officer suspended amid rape allegations.

What started out as a routine police matter where a raid executed by the police on a local night spot for the illegal entertainment of “stripping” on 13th December ended up with allegations of sexual assault against a Senior Immigration Officer as reported in the Jamaican Gleaner one week later. And yes, “stripping” is still illegal in The Bahamas.

The complainant was a Jamaican national who claimed to be a legal resident of The Bahamas with a spousal permit and the right to work. She worked at the night spot and was taken into custody during the police dragnet operation – a standard police procedure where both patrons and employees are taken in during these types of anti-crime operations.

Unable to immediately provide documented proof of her immigration status, the police turned her matter over the department of immigration for further processing. She was able to eventually satisfy immigration officials of her legal status and was officially released.

Several days later the complainant presented herself at the Crisis Center and reported what amounted to abduction and rape by a Senior Immigration Officer. According to the Ministry, the officer in question was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation and stressed that the Bahamas government does not sanction or condone this kind of behavior.

“We wish to notify the public that a Senior Immigration Officer has been placed on administrative leave with immediate effect pending investigation of a sexual assault alleged by a detainee who is a Jamaican citizen. The matter is also before the police. The appropriate steps for disciplinary action have been taken. All necessary steps including prosecution, suspension and dismissal from the public service will be applied where warranted.

“Once again, the Ministry wishes to indicate that it does not condone or sanction in any way, shape or form abuse of any kind by any officer of the department. It will not be tolerated and the strongest measures will be taken where there are violations of the rights of people” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a press statement released on Saturday 20 December.

This position of intolerance was reiterated at a press conference on Sunday, 21st December where the Immigration Minister said he had briefed the Honorary Consular General from Jamaica to The Bahamas and the Jamaican Foreign Minister on the administrative measures being taken by the government. The Senior Immigration Officer was picked by Police, questioned and released (on Wednesday, 17th December) because at that time there was insufficient evidence to charge him; that investigation continues. Meanwhile the enforcement work of the immigration department continues.

 

Mitchell foreshadows stricter immigration rules

Appearing as a guest of Carlton Smith on Guardian Radio on Monday, Immigration Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell revealed that the new immigration measures are just the beginning and a “work in progress” with more stringent measures to come, including health insurance and housing provisions for work permit holders.

The Minister believes that if migrant workers are insured, this will lessen the financial and resource burden on public health facilities and the public treasury to provide health care services to thousands of migrant workers.

Additionally, if proper housing for these foreign workers is provided as part of the application process, this will go a long way in arresting if not eliminating the proliferation of unsanitary and illegal shanty towns that now dot the Bahamian landscape on many islands.

 

Alstom bribery scandal involved BEC

“Alstom S.A. (Alstom), a French power and transportation company, pleaded guilty today (22nd Dec) and agreed to pay a $772,290,000 fine to resolve charges related to a widespread scheme involving tens of millions of dollars in bribes in countries around the world, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and The Bahamas.” This was according to a press statement released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) following the court ruling on Monday 22nd December.

Court documents did not identify any board member or government official only identifying the American consultant as “consultant 1” and the government official as “official 8.”

 

Former Ministers with responsibility for the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and BEC board members weighed in on the court ruling.

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister with responsibility for BEC Frank Watson expressed shock at the ruling and said he would be surprised if any board member was involved.

“I am very surprised” said Mr. Watson, “I didn’t hear that at the time. Some of these things are undercover”…”I would be surprised if board members were bought. That would shock me.”

Another BEC Minister, Bradley Roberts said he expressed concerns in a communication to Parliament in May 2003 about the unsatisfactory performance of the slow speed diesel engines bought under the Alstom contract. He also called for an investigation into the matter.

“I am of the view that the government of The Bahamas should cause an investigation to be launched into the Alstom (former ADD) deal. The governments of The Bahamas and the US have in place information exchange agreements so the Attorney General can access the relevant facts and identities of the persons involved under the terms and conditions of this exchange agreement” said Mr. Roberts in a press statement on Tuesday, 23rd December.

Also weighing in was former BEC Chairman J. Barrie Farrington who said that “it was nobody on that damn board (involved).” He also said that he was “extremely concerned” and is “as anxious as anybody else to get to the bottom of it. This is not good.” Mr. Farrington served as board chairman when it unanimously awarded the contract to the South Korea’s Hanjung, a decision that was later overturned by the cabinet.

Another former board member, Loretta Butler-Turner, said she needed to get all of the facts before she could comment on the matter but pledged “to get to the bottom of the allegations.”

Former Prime Minister Ingraham declined comment on the court ruling.

 

Pilot ‘sick-out’ Bahamas Flag Carrier

Unable to agree on the financial terms of the latest labour agreement, Bahamasair pilot union executives walked out of meetings early Monday morning and some pilots subsequently staged a “sick-out,” leaving many local and foreign travelers stranded, irate and frustrated.

Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis acknowledged that the pilot sick-out inflicted “loss and damage to Bahamasair both to its fiscal line and to its reputation.” He further said on Tuesday morning that a contingency plan was being executed and he expected operations to return to normal by Wednesday at the latest with or without the pilots.

Labour Minister the Hon. D. Shane Gibson apologized to the traveling public for the matter reaching this point, indicating that all of the outstanding labour issues were resolved except for the one involving increments.

“The pilots’ increments are $1,700 per year to the bottom and $2,400 to the top”…”It came down to the last three years of the contract – we said to them that we would agree to pay half of the increment and add it on to their salary rather than full increment just so we could try and cut back on the amount of subsidy we provide to Bahamasair. We thought it was time for us to really see how we could manage the process better in terms of cutting back and I guess for half an increment they just decided to leave everybody in The Bahamas stranded” said the Minister.

The union on the other hand was in agreement with receiving a retroactive lump sum payment of two years worth of increments amounting to between $3,400 and $4,800.

Union executes argued that when six to ten pilots were advised on Monday evening that negotiations had stalled with no agreement on the financial terms of the agreement, the pilots were not in the psychological and emotional frame of mind to get into the cockpit of an aircraft, thus the “sick-out.” They denied any call for industrial actions.

The sick out ended Tuesday night and Bahamasair reported that flight operations returned to normal by Wednesday night.

 

“Popeye Bahamas Bowl” historic for The Bahamas

The first college football Bowl game to be played outside of the United States in 74 years and the first one in The Bahamas took place in Nassau at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on Christmas Eve. This event was sponsored by Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen.

The Central Michigan University Chippewas and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, both sporting a record of 7-5, did battle before an enthusiastic crowd. In the end, the Hilltopers who won the coin toss prevailed with a score of 49 – 48. It was their first bowl victory.

Aired live on ESPN radio and television, the Popeye Bahamas Bowl generated more than $1.6 million in advertisement revenue and was seen by some 110 million viewers worldwide. Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said that such exposure is huge for the country and the government must build on this success by securing deeper penetration of the Bahamas’ brand well into the international tourism and travel market.

“I was watching ESPN this morning and they talked about The Bahamas, The Bahamas, The Bahamas. So that‘s what we’re trying to do, we have to brand of The Bahamas out there – associate The Bahamas with all it can offer and cause people to want to come to our nation.

“Also you must remember now, the hotel rooms are filled. You have to remember Atlantis is doing better business for the month of December. Their market has been great but together with this you see the number increase. It’s like getting people to our country, getting people into our (hotel) beds and getting more visitors to spend in our country (and) to do that you’ve got to expose the country and people have to know that The Bahamas is more than just Nassau and Paradise Island. We have many more islands.

Sports and culture tourism have led the resurgence in tourism over the past two years. In 2013 The Bahamas welcomed a record 6.2 million to its shores and 2014 arrival figures are ahead of the 2013 arrival figures. This is certainly good news for the industry specifically and the economy generally.

For more on this story go to: http://www.bahamaislandsinfo.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19973:this-week-in-the-bahamas-dec-22-26-by-elcott-coleby&catid=35:Press%20releases%20of%20interest&Itemid=148

EDITOR: Some of the Bahama Islands stories mentioned above have expanded coverage here today in iNews Cayman courtesy of Bahama Islands Info.

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