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Majority of SkyBahamas pilots furloughed

Layoffs ‘very real possibility’ for airline, says president
  • Randy Butler.

ALISON LOWE
Guardian Business Editor
alison@nasguard.com

Published: Oct 21, 2013

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Denying that SkyBahamas staff have been terminated, the airline’s President and CEO Randy Butler has confirmed that as many as 12 out of 21 pilots working for the company have been “furloughed” days after a three-day sick-out threw its operations into chaos.

Butler admitted that layoffs throughout other areas of the 126-strong company are a “very real possibility” following significant losses as a result of a sick-out which began Sunday, October 13 and extended to Wednesday, October 16, during what Butler has described as an already particularly challenging slow season for the airline.

Three part-time staff were let go on Thursday.

Butler told Guardian Business yesterday afternoon that he was given an “ultimatum” by representatives of the Bahamas Pilots Alliance on Friday, which represented the pilots who did not come to work, and had no choice but to choose to furlough the staff.

This move leaves him able to call them back for work, if he and they agree to this in the future.

However, Butler added that the sick-out by the pilots over a new contract during the traditionally slow season has contributed to a decision to “reduce operations” at the airline, meaning that there are fewer flights to be flown and therefore fewer pilots needed.

Declining to go into specifics on the areas of service which are to be impacted by the reduction in flights, Butler said this information would be forthcoming soon in advertisements notifying the public.

Butler described the pilots who were involved in the action which saw them stay away from their jobs for three days, as “fine young men who have been misled by the Bahamasair pilots union”.

The Bahamas Pilots Alliance is led by Bahamasair pilot, President Mark Johnson.

Butler claims their action has cost the company $300,000 in direct costs for reaccommodating passengers on flight for which the company at times had to pay as much as three times what the passenger would have paid for their flight initially.

Meanwhile, he suggested that the company’s losses will extend far beyond the direct losses, given a setback in “goodwill” for the company as passengers and business partners fear whether or not it will be impacted by sudden flight cancellations in the future.

Creditors have now “started to call and write”, said Butler, expressing concern over whether the company can meet its financial commitments.

Butler placed the move to furlough the staff and cut back on operations in the context of what was a tough time for the airline.

“Our numbers were solid for July and August but off from last year,” he said. “Last September we thought was the worst; this one topped that, and October was horrible. But we were hoping to hold on and keep people employed and this was what happened, and at a time when we could not afford it to happen.”

“The fall out is huge right now. It wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back. It crippled the camel. People are wondering what is going to prevent this from happening in the future.”

“You can’t quantify the cost when someone is out there on Facebook saying SkyBahamas has shut down,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the CEO revealed that the company plans to move out of two offices which it currently rents from the Provident Fund, a fund belonging to Bahamasair, by the end of the month.

SkyBahamas presently rents the office space on Blake Road at a cost of $5,600 a month from the fund, but has decided it must “consolidate” its operations, said Butler. It will now move some of its call center, training, storage and other activities and functions which were carried out in this space to facilities at the airport, said Butler.

The Bahamas Pilots Alliance has asked SkyBahamas to sign up to a new contract for the pilots. On Tuesday, President of the BPA Mark Johnson said the union had been waiting for SkyBahamas to enter into negotiations over the contracts since June, when a proposal was first sent to the airline.

The Bahamas Pilots Alliance is holding a press conference today to address the decision to furlough the pilots.


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