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Web Shop Staff Call For Boycott

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

WEB shop employees yesterday suggested a boycott of businesses or economic interests of Cabinet ministers as operators pledge to take their fight against an impending tax increase on their sector all the way to the Privy Council.

A boycott in protest of the tax hike’s projected impact on the industry was raised by an employee during a forum held by the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association at the British Colonial Hilton.

The sector has warned government that the increase will result in some 2,000 job losses and the closure of more than 100 storefronts throughout the country.

“This is preparing to be a tough time,” said one employee, “and what we need to do I guess is figure out ways we can approach it from different directions. Maybe we should go buy a scrubbing board, a tin tub, we got to hit them where it hurts.

“Capitalise on Superwash,” the employee continued. “Let’s go to those other washhouses, let them see how it feels. This three weeks leave them alone, let them see how it hurts in their pocket.”

Superwash is owned by Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, whose portfolio also includes Bahamasair.

The suggestion was met by a rousing chorus with the names of other established businesses called out from the packed room.

“The reality is we were forced into this…there will be job cuts,” said Erica Laing, executive director of administration and finance at The Island Game, who assured workers any upcoming job cuts as a result of the government’s proposed sliding tax scale will be unbiased and based on performance.

“I don’t know about y’all, but I’m not cut out to be a housekeeper or a space cleaner. It isn’t about the classification of the job, it’s about what you are here and here cut out and qualified to do,” she said, pointing to her head and heart.

“I’m looking at you and I don’t see cashiers, I see customer service representatives. We are so much more than what they see and it’s time they realise that.”

Ms Laing’s remarks were likely a hit at comments made by Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson, who recently apologised after he came under fire for suggesting web shop workers who are laid off could seek out entry-level jobs at Baha Mar, such as in housekeeping.

In a side interview with The Tribune, Ms Laing said web shop workers represented a number of professionals ranging from accounting and finance, to compliance, design and computer programmers.

“We’re cashiers, we’re customer service representatives, we’re IT professionals, we’re human resources professionals, marketing professionals, computer programming, we are so much more,” Ms Laing told this newspaper.

“To coin Sesame Street, we’re the people in your neighbourhood, and more than that we have buying power. Our girls spend money at various hair dressers, grocery stores, shops, so when you affect one job in the web industry, you are affecting so many other industries and so many other people.”

Island Luck Human Resources Director Shanette Rahming said: “It’s a hard decision, unfortunately our hands are tied. It’s a decision, if the government stands on this proposed increase, the thought of knowing it will affect families as a whole, and not just families within the organisation.

“We have locations that are leased, those being closed down impacts the landlord. There’s Cable Bahamas, BTC, all of us will be impacted. We don’t know if the government has looked at it from that point.”

More than 100 industry employees attended the forum hosted by the BGOA to update workers on its fight against the proposed tax, and field suggestions on the way forward.

“We are doing everything humanly possible, we’re using all our recourse and ammunition to save your jobs and your livelihood,” said BGOA President Gershan Major.

“We are moving in deliberate manner to really see how we can resolve this,” he continued, “and there is no sleep for the weary and we’re doing our part to make sure we do everything humanly possible to fight for you. This is why we wanted to have this conversation. We do not have all the answers, I welcome your input.

“The government has the sovereign right to tax,” he continued, “we are not disputing that position.

“No government has the sovereign right to tax you into oblivion or decimate a sector or put a sector at such risk due to taxation that it causes harm to one’s livelihood without due compensation.”

Yesterday, web shop executives flagged the philanthropic and social impact of the industry, most notably in providing access to continuing education for workers.

Earlier this year, the BGOA announced it would allocate $7.1 million to civic and corporate philanthropy, some $3m more than its statutory requirement.

Ms Laing said 60 percent of her staff was seeking to better themselves, and currently engaged in programmes ranging from anti-money laundering, compliance, accounting, and business to computer programming.

“I have others that did not have an opportunity coming out of school, and saying ‘how can I improve myself?’ So I have some staff doing their BGCSEs now and in the summer going into college prep,” she said.

Ms Laing said web shops employ a large number of single mothers, many of whom were the principle breadwinners in their family.

“The thing is,” she continued, “I think it’s almost impossible for the government to just make a decision just looking at data and statistics. We don’t want to be another statistic, we are so much more than what they see on paper.

“We’re members of our community, members of our church, we’re people that help various charities, we are entrepreneurs in the making some of us. We are young people that are seeking to better themselves by improving their education, which a lot of the web shops pay for.

“If you’re studying something that is going to help you on your job it’s paid for, if you’re doing something else you can still get a staff loan at zero to three percent interest.

“We take care of our staff and we take care of the people in our community, so we’re so much more than what people are tossing around out there.”

At yesterday’s forum, Mr Major was asked by The Tribune whether operators had considered absorbing the net impact to their profit margins to retain staff.

He replied: “If you make $100 today and I say to you without doing anything to provide any input in how that earning of the $100 came about, and I say I’m going to take $20 from that before you pay anything, no I’ll just take $50 at the maximum.

“How would you categorise that? And that’s for you to think about, not for you to answer,” Mr Major continued, “because what the proposed tax increase suggests is a sliding scale at the minimum 20 percent of gross, 50 percent of gross, that means before any bonus pay out to those who participate as patrons, lease, salaries, light, utility and all other costs.

“So when you look at the net effect it’s far less than what should be reasonably considered and that’s our contention. You’re talking about a current position of 11 percent of your net gross revenue to 20, to 50 percent. That’s an 81 percent to over 350 percent increase.

“Now,” he asked the room, “anyone who thinks that’s reasonable raise your hand.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months ago

Repost: Let's not forget that His Majesty King Sebas Bastian and His Royal Highness Sir Craig Flowers were well known criminal thugs before the last corrupt Christie-led PLP government issued them with licenses purporting to somehow legitamize their past criminal conduct and ongoing money laundering and other illegal activities. In fact, His Royal Highness Sir Craig Flowers was convicted of his criminal activities but the corrupt PLP government later arranged for his criminal record to be expunged by the court so that he could be deemed a fit and proper person to receive a web shop gaming license. Remember, at that time the courts and the handling of all criminal prosecutions were effectively under the control of the most Evil Wicked Witch of the West, namely Allyson Maynard-Gibson. But everyone knows these two low-life thugs each had a long criminal background pre-dating the receipt of their bogus licenses during which time they amassed huge fortunes from their illegal operations over many years. Since receiving their bogus gaming licenses they have been blatantly laundering their ill-gotten and unjust riches at a blistering pace in the expansion of their criminal empires which are destroying the social and economic fabric of our society. Yes indeed, we now desperately need a tax-free national lottery.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months ago

Repost: Calvin Wilson, a foreigner who is no longer the director of the CFATF, was goaded by none other than Alfred Sears into writing a threatening letter to Minnis. As most of us know Alfred Sears is a de facto business partner of His Majesty King Sebas Bastian and His Royal Highness Sir Craig Flowers. And pray tell, why does this foreign fella Wilson think he somehow has a continuing right to meddle in the sovereign affairs of the people of the Bahamas. It certainly begs the question as to whether he has 'close ties' to the larger Caribbean cartel of numbers bosses. Wilson's line of thinking is fundamentally flawed in as much as it presupposes the low-life racketeering thugs like King Sebas and Sir Craig still have the ability to take their operations underground notwithstanding all of the very costly new laws and regulations we have now put in place at the 'behest' of the U.S. FATF, CFATF, OECD, IMF, etc. to fight money laundering and other illegal activities. Is Wilson somehow now implying that all of these very costly new laws and regulations we put in place will fail to keep the dirty ill-gotten unjust riches of the numbers bosses out of our banking system and the global banking system?! Wilson needs to have his head examined and stop making a fool of himself by kowtowing to the wishes of Alfred Sears who is a well entrenched de facto business partner of King Sebas and Sir Craig.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months ago

Only time will tell whether the darling white-haired constantly yapping poodle, who has managed to transform himself into a ferocious snarling pit bull in dealing with the numbers bosses, will be able to hold his ground when he either gets kicked in the gut or induced to adopt a much softer tone in dealing with the web shop bosses. One thing is for sure, His Majesty King Sebas and his Royal Highness Sir Craig are well known for spending lavishly to get whatever they want or 'buy' whomever they need to get out of their way. Let's pray we don't start seeing SuperWash laundromats sharing the same new and/or renovated buildings in prime locations occupied by Island Luck and/or Flowers. Such will be the real test for the poodle turned pit bull !!

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joeblow 2 months ago

So the 'gaming association' rents a room in British Colonial, feeds their employees and incites them to boycott businesses, but won't pay their employees enough to buy washing machines? When will Bahamians get tired of living hand to mouth and simply being pawns in a game where they are the ones being used and abused to make others rich? So sad!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months ago

I agree that the current regressive taxation regime is unfair and therefore unsuitable for all, except of course the racketeering sinful empires run by the low-life thugs known as numbers bosses. But any effort at this point in time to replace it with a progressive income tax regime of the kind found in more developed countries would be like putting dynamite in the hands of young children. For decades now our successive spendthrift governments have demonstrated that they are simply not responsible enough to oversee the implementation and administration of a progressive income tax regime. This is mainly due to the failed two party political system we have been saddled with for the past 25 years or so whereby incompetent imbeciles are typically nominated to run for elected office, and competent, honest and hardworking Bahamians are for most part not inclined to get involved in active politics. Adopting a progressive tax regime without first fixing our failed two party political system would likely trigger 'a flight to safety' of almost all of our country's foreign-owned and domestic-owned financial capital, essentially resulting in the halting of all FDI, the depletion of our foreign currency reserves, and the destruction of the Bahamian dollar over night. Most Bahamians are too young to remember just how bad Jamaicans had it in their country for the longest time, when they could not even buy toilet paper or tooth paste. And now years later Jamaica still bears the terrible economic and social scarring from the hellish ordeal they went through for decades.

For the time being a 10% VAT with no exemptions could work, but only if accompanied by sustained belt tightening aimed at significantly (and painfully) reducing the size of our grossly over-bloated public services sector by as much as one-third or more over the next two to three years at most. Minnis and his cabinet should therefore be working overtime to create an environment conducive to significant private sector job growth. But the 2019/20 budget does very little if anything to encourage private sector job growth; iIn fact many would rightly argue it does the opposite.

And of course the scourge of the sinful money laundering empires run by the likes of His Majesty King Sebas Bastian and His Royal Highness Sir Craig Flowers would have to be dealt with, in large part through much higher taxation then even currently proposed and by the establishment of a completely tax-free national lottery initially operated by reputable and seasoned foreign lottery experts from Canada or the U.S.

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ohdrap4 2 months ago

They remind me of that NHI radion ad. where a little child would say:

my grammy can't buy medication, my auntie is sick....

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sealice 2 months ago

I thought everyone was going to boycott the webshops?? Come on now that would be the correct thing to do....

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sealice 2 months ago

less then 1% of the population will now have the chance to get a meaningful job in which you might learn a skill instead of sitting on your duff all day long taking money for the man who's getting richer while you move down the ladder.....

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