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City Markets Job Fear

By CELESTE NIXON Tribune Staff Reporter cnixon@tribunemedia.net TENSIONS remain high as 400 City Market employees are still unsure about the future of their jobs. According to Rosalie McKenzie, Bahamas Commercial Stores, Supermarkets and Warehouse Workers Union (BCSWWU) administrator, as talk persists of the impending closure of City Market's four remaining stores, employees are worried they will be left without compensation - especially as some of them have not been paid for three weeks. She said: "Employees are upset and nervous. They want to know when the doors will be closing and how they will be compensated." Executives of BCSWWU have attempted to organise a joint meeting with City Market principal Mark Finlayson and Labour Minister Dion Foulkes since Friday to discuss the fate of the cash-tight supermarket chain, Ms McKenzie said. She said the BCSWWU has been informed that Mr Finlayson is off the island. Her members have not received any formal communication about the sale of the chain, she said. However, Ms McKenzie noted rumours that the stores could close as early as Friday. Reports of a possible closure circulated earlier this week following reports that Mr Finlayson, principal of 78 per cent majority shareholder, Trans-Island Traders was negotiating with two separate international groups over the purchase of a majority stake in the struggling five-store chain. Speaking with Tribune Business on Monday, Mr Foulkes said he was "very concerned" about the job security for City Markets' remaining 400 employees. He hoped to meet the supermarket chain's principal by Wednesday after staff filed a trade dispute with the Department of Labour. He said: "I am very concerned about the security of the jobs of workers at City Markets. The Government intends to do whatever it can to protect the benefits that are due the workers of City Markets." Some 200 City Markets filed a trade dispute at the Department of Labour on Monday, seeking to safeguard their compensation, pensions and other benefits. The retailer's woes have been highly publicised recently, with store closures as well as the pension fund and regulatory issues being highlighted. City Markets' operating parent suffered a $16.587 million net loss for its 2011 financial year that closed at the end of June last year. This sum was more than double that of the previous year, before $15.453 million in "extraordinary income" cut the bottom line's red ink to $1.135 million. The $16.587 million net loss (before extraordinary items) is some 124 per cent ahead of the $7.808 million in red ink incurred during the final year of the ill-fated BSL Holdings reign. Mr Foulkes could not be reached for a further up-date on the matter up to press time yesterday.

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