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Union demands and job losses

Published: Oct 22, 2013

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Labor and business often clash over what workers “deserve”.  This happens too in the relationship between labor and the government when the government is the employer.  Several of these types of clashes are playing out now in The Bahamas.

Just days after a group of SkyBahamas pilots was furloughed for six months, the airline announced yesterday that it will cut more staff from its workforce to stem financial losses.

SkyBahamas CEO and President Randy Butler said the layoffs are the result of months of falling demand, increased competition and the effects of union actions.

The majority of SkyBahamas’ domestic airline pilots staged what appeared to be a sickout over the recent holiday weekend, though the Bahamian Pilots Alliance’s (BPA) refutes industrial action was taken.

Butler said while these additional layoffs will not be easy on the former employees and their families, the company has alluded to its financial challenges and the implications of the BPA’s actions.  The company said it lost in excess of $100,000 that weekend when pilots did not show up to work.

The pilots want a new contract.  The union’s president Mark Johnson confirmed that securing medical insurance and seniority lists are just some of the items they are looking to secure for pilots in the new proposed contract.

But the effect of the sickout in the context of the economic conditions of the company has now led to job loses.  Consequently, it is unclear if the union will get what it wanted.

Last week the Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) threatened to take a strike vote if the government does not provide medical insurance coverage for non-uniformed customs and immigration employees.

BCIAWU Vice President Sloane Smith said the union filed a trade dispute with the Department of Labour on Thursday and would take further action if the government does not resolve the matter by November 1.

Minister of Labour Shane Gibson said in response that the union is being unrealistic and “overreaching” with its strike threat.

We wonder if this union has been reading the papers or watching the news lately.  The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration is systematically raising taxes to try to close the massive budget deficit that now exists.  In fact, with the introduction of the value added tax, Bahamians from all spheres will be burdened and have to give even more of their hard-earned money to the wasteful and inefficient state.  If the government already is struggling to pay for its responsibilities, does this union think it wise to ask for even more?

The SkyBahamas workers are experiencing the effect of asking for too much at the wrong time.  People have now lost their jobs.  The customs and immigration workers should calm themselves and be grateful they have jobs.

All workers employed at this time should do all they can to improve the quality of the products and services they deliver through their companies or agencies.  Making unreasonable demands can lead to painful consequences for the workers and their families – those being, unemployment and financial distress.

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