NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Approximately 60 Bahamasair employees will become trained contract tracers as the government seeks to expand its contact-tracing regime, according to Minister of Health Renward Wells.
Bahamasair has 595 employees.
Wells said a total of 80 people will be trained as contract tracers, including 10 civil servants and 10 Ministry of Tourism.
In a memo to staff obtained by Eyewitness News, Bahamasair Director Flight Operations Captain Paulo Cartwright stressed the need for employees to step forward, saying the request from the Office of the Prime Minister reflects the need.
He appealed to staff to volunteer, noting operations had been reduced to four days per week while employees continued to receive 100 percent of their salaries.
He said it was an opportunity for employees of the national flag carrier, who have enjoyed a benefit that not many employees have in The Bahamas, to show that they were willing to play their part in the national war on COVID.
But Cartwright said: “…Regrettably, the response has been much less than expected thus far.
“So, on behalf of the owner, I wish to make an appeal for your cooperation and those concerned will show flexibility to accommodate their participation.
“Resumption of normal life is directly related to control of this COVID pandemic to an acceptable level.
“Contact tracing is a big part of the management aspect.
“The sooner life returns to normal, the sooner travel can resume in meaningful numbers and we can fly a more normal schedule and all that flows from that.”
Cartwright advised that employees’ schedules could be changed to match the days on the Contact Tracing Unit, noting that Bahamasair was unable to pay overtime for employees to perform the function of contact tracing.
This week, Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest said the airline has had to rely on the government to maintain its operations as the airline was “not making any money”.
In July, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the government was considering deferring salaries for a portion or all of Bahamasair employees as the airline grapples with major financial losses brought on by the pandemic.
When asked about the matter the following month, the prime minister said the government has had discussions, but no decision had been made regarding salary deferrals.
The airline receives substantial government subsidies.