A letter to the Bahamas Press Editor – Sky Bahamas must not allow Union Busting tactics!

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Dear Editor,

On the weekend of the 11th October, 2013 a few pilots at Sky Bahamas were deemed unfit for duty by certified Physicians because of various illnesses. The company assumed that this was a staged sick out, orchestrated by The Bahamian Pilots Alliance in an effort to get the company to commence contract negotiations. On the morning of Friday 18th October, 2013 the Bahamian Pilots Alliance finally had an opportunity to meet with Sky Bahamas and Mr. Keith Archer. We were then informed that the company was preparing to terminate those pilots that was out sick and was subsequently given an ultimatum of having them “furloughed” or terminated. The BPA informed Sky Bahamas that the term furloughed is not applicable in the Bahamas according to the Employment Act and that they either have the members remain on their jobs or if they decide to terminate the pilots, that they needed to prepare their severance packages. By 9:00pm that evening via email, pilots received termination letters.

Pilots were then  called individually a few days later, after being fired and offered their jobs back in exchange that they withdraw their trade dispute filed against the company on 21st October, 2013, the executives of The Bahamian Pilots Alliance has also been informed that members are being coerced into withdrawing from Alliance in exchange for their jobs.

On Monday 21st October, 2013 management of Sky Bahamas denied in the media terminating the pilots but on Tuesday 22nd October, 2013 they claimed that the company obliged the BPA by terminating the pilots on the pervious Friday.  On one hand they are saying that they did not fire and on the other hand they stated that he obliged, Which is it?

management of Sky Bahamas claims the BPA’s Executive team is made up of entirely of Bahamasair pilots and this could not be any further from the truth.  The BPA’s conception began back in 2002 while I was still employed at what was then Sky Unlimited and long before becoming employed at Bahamasair.  The Executive team is made up of pilots from other airlines as well as private pilots.

The BPA has come to realize that the management of Sky Bahamas is just trying to “muddy the water” so to speak in order to detract from the real issue, and that is not wanting the pilots to become unionized.

A few weeks back The Bahamian pilots Alliance stressed that fact that management at Sky Bahamas was destroying good hard working Bahamian lives in an attempted to union bust, intimidate, victimize and dismantle the Alliance. The company claimed that it was strapped for cash due to two days of an alleged sick out, turned around and shut the company down for a third day to hold a staff meeting. they talked about cutting back due to the fact that the company had to move to a two plane operation and the high taxes that was being imposed on the company all being reasons that they needed to terminate ten pilots, only members of The Bahamian Pilots Alliance, just after the alleged sick out and then rehired them a week later under certain terms and conditions. We are elated that seven out of ten pilots were called back to work but can not ignore the fact that the three that remain unemployed are those pilots that decided to move forward with their trade dispute.

The Saying goes “He who has the gold makes the rules.”  It’s never a good situation when one man makes the rules with only his bottom line in mind. We have seen this Friday 18th October, 2013 “Do what I say or go home.” I know for a fact that aviation in the Bahamas is safe. We have good rules and regulations in place, if we follow those rules and regulations we would not have a problem. Put a pilot in a position where he has no voice, under a company who’s willing to dangle the carrot (his job) every opportunity it has leaves room for the man with the gold to be able changes the rules as he sees fit, I’ve  been there! definitely not a good situation.

It is imperative that Sky Bahamas is not allowed to union bust, intimidate, victimize and dismantle The-BPA and in turn silence the pilot body and left holding the carrot. Do you the members of the traveling public really want to know that the pilots in command of your flight could possibly be under a lot of stress as a result of pressure from their work environment.  Pilots need representation, a voice and a stress free work environment to perform their duties safely, but it is obvious that some airline operators are more concerned that by providing the above mentioned to their pilots,  this would compromise their bottom line of large profits.

Mark Johnson

President