The announcement that some 200 employees will be made redundant over the next 18 months at Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) was premature and misleading, according to Works Minister Desmond Bannister, who insisted on Friday that the separations will be voluntary.
In an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News, Bannister said, no one will be terminated from BPL but instead, everyone who leaves would be doing it “by their own choice”.
“Let me say there are no pending layoffs at BPL,” Bannister said.
“There is a clear misunderstanding. The board had a press conference and they indicated that they would be talking with their stakeholders. They should have been more clear than they were and they ought to have said that anything that happens at BPL, will be voluntary separations.
“So, the unions have been approaching us for some time. There are any number of staff members at BPL who want to leave, who want to be able to start another phase of their life. And so there will be some persons who take voluntary separation packages. There will be no involuntary packages at BPL, I want to ensure everyone. I know there was an issue last night. We ought to have been able to be sufficiently clear, there will be no involuntary separations at BPL.”
On Thursday, BPL’s Deputy Chairman Patrick Rollins announced that more than 200 employees will be made redundant over the next 18 months.
Rollins said the company is overstaffed with 1,050 workers and it is working with stakeholders to “right size the company”
After the announcement, unions representing managers and line staff at the company, fired back with threats of a “dark and very hot summer”.
However, Bannister said, he doubts any industrial action will be taken.
“I do not expect that we will have any union action,” he said
“They know that these are going to be voluntary separations packages (VSEP) and they are welcome by the union.”
On Friday, BPL General Manager Whitney Heastie admitted that the company will offer voluntary separation packages as opposed to terminations.
He said one way or the other “the numbers will have to be reduced”.