Another round of layoffs for SkyBahamas
ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Oct 22, 2013
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.
In an interview at his Blake Road office, SkyBahamas CEO and President Randy Butler said the layoffs are the result of months of falling demand, increased competition and the effects of union action.
When contacted yesterday evening, Butler indicated that 10 non-technical employees in customer services and one technical employee were laid off.
He said the layoff list could have been longer, but several other employees agreed to go on days instead of working full weeks.
No pilots were included in this latest round of layoffs.
“Everyone understands that we have been challenged,” Butler told reporters.
“We have talked about it. We met as a group [last] Tuesday, and we talked about that again.”
In a letter issued to the pilots who were furloughed on Friday, SkyBahamas pointed to serious financial challenges.
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 Bahamian Pilots Alliance’s (BPA) actions.
“I have spoken to the media about this already, and we told them the storm is coming,” Butler said.
“...It is a reality and we have to work our way out of this. I am not standing by for it to take me out. I have to take proactive steps.”
The majority of SkyBahamas’ domestic airline pilots staged what appeared to be a “sick-out” over the holiday weekend, though the union refutes industrial action was taken.
Butler said when he advised the union in a meeting on Friday of the company’s need to downsize, its representatives demanded severance packages for all pilots they represented in the company.
He said he was forced to furlough the staff, which allows the company to call those employees back to work in the future.
He said if the airline reduces its staff now and keeps going, it may be able to do just that.
In a separate interview, BPA President Mark Johnson said the union will file a trade dispute with the Department of Labour on that matter.
“Furlough does not exist in The Bahamas, so if you can not afford to pay, then you can not afford to fire,” Johnson said. “Reinstate the workers or pay them their severance packages.”
Johnson questioned why the airline hired two new pilots last week and hosted a job fair week earlier this month if layoffs were looming.
In response, Butler said SkyBahamas hired a foreign pilot in management as a training pilot after it could not recruit qualified Bahamians for the job.
SkyBahamas has 126 employees, the vast majority of whom are Bahamian, according to Butler.
He noted that the airline has been operating at around 15 to 20 percent of its capacity since earlier this year.
The union has requested that Labour Minister Shane Gibson intervene.
The minister could not be reached for comment up to press time.