NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest said the national flag carrier will hold discussions with the government and the bargaining agent for employees concerning Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ announcement the government is consider deferring a portion of their salaries.
When contacted, Turnquest said: “I listened just like you. Obviously, we will have discussions with the government. We will then have discussions with the board and management, and then the union.”
Bahamasair currently has a total of 595 employees.
During debate on a resolution to extend the proclamation of emergency and emergency orders in Parliament, the prime minister said: “Around the world, as airlines are parked and not flying, airlines are filing for bankruptcy.
“Bahamasair is supported by the government and the people of The Bahamas, yet its staff are fully paid, [and] yet no work.
“I spoke to my colleagues this morning in the Caribbean, and at some point in time, we will have to make a decision on whether — I am not saying we are doing that now, but at some point in time — we have to make a decision whether Bahamasair’s staff who are sitting there, the aircraft that are sitting there; should we pay them a percentage of their pay, let’s say 70 percent and defer the other 30 until things have changed.”
The prime minister pointed out Barbados issued compulsory bonds and has had success in keeping the workforce employed.
“I don’t believe in laying off, keeping everyone employed, but reducing their salary by a high percentage and that bond is paid to them over 18 months, one year’s time by the Central Bank, but they are guaranteed salaries,” Minnis said.
“Mr. Speaker, at some point in time, we have to make that decision; whether we follow what is happening around the world in mass layoffs, which causes serious problems, serious problems.
“So, I have issues with that as opposed to reducing individuals’ salaries, deferring a proportion, a percentage of their salaries, but their guaranteed it. It’s deferred until our pandemic is resolved and our economy starts to grow. That’s something we have to think about Mr. Speaker, and it’s difficult decisions.”
The prime minister said while politicians would normally be afraid to make those decisions, he is prepared to make tough calls that puts the interest of the nation first.
Minnis said while the tourism product appeared to be “coming back” following the reopening of the country’s borders to international commercial carriers, but the government has to make difficult decisions to make”
“I am reminded by my colleagues that should we make such a decision in terms of deferring a percentage of individuals salaries that they are all prepared to defer a portion of theirs also in the interest of the country.”
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