By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The government's top labour official yesterday confirmed that a hearing on the trade dispute filed by Sky Bahamas employees will take place next Thursday.
John Pinder, director of labour, confirmed to Tribune Business that the matter has been filed and said: "There is a hearing set for next week Thursday in relation to that matter. Those employees are complaining about salaries owed and severance pay. We've actually only seen three disputes so far."
The trade disputes are just the latest development in a saga where the airline's commercial future is looking increasingly bleak, with hopes for its revival fading amid the ongoing dispute with the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority over the renewal of its Air Operator Certificate (AOC).
Captain Randy Butler, Sky Bahamas' principal, told Tribune Business this week that the airline's staff "have to do what they have to do", with its near-two month grounding pushing him towards legal action against the industry regulator. Staff have been unpaid from the July 15 pay period.
Confirming that the debt is owed, Captain Butler said he was simply unable to pay staff salaries or any other regular operating expenses due to the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority ordering that Sky Bahamas cease commercial flights from July 8 due to issues over its AOC.
"The fact is I haven't paid them and I have to pay them," he told Tribune Business. "The fact is that pay day came on July 15 and we were grounded on July 8. That basically stopped our operation and dried up the funding we had.
"We had to finance alternative flights for people who were booked to travel with us, we had to deal with charter companies, and I had to use my personal credit card to keep the business going at that time. That was important, because if we kept going I could pay the people.
"The staff have been a really good group of people, and most of them I'd like to continue to work with, but these people have to do what they have to do and I hope to get some relief to them before anything else comes up."
Sky Bahamas' travails could likely not have occurred at a worse time for many of the 63 staff employed when it was grounded due to the rapid approach of Back-to-School expenses. Tribune Business sources revealed several employees have attempted to access their pension fund monies - so far without success.
A notice was also posted at the weekend saying Sky Bahamas had been evicted by its landlord, and directed all inquiries to two Glinton, Sweeting & O'Brien attorneys, Roy Sweeting and Giahna Soles-Hunt.
"Effective Saturday, August 17, 2019, the previous tenant of these premises, Sky Bahamas Airlines, has been evicted and the premises have been secured and reoccupied by the owner, AOG Maintenance Company. The contents of the premises are presently destrained for rent," the notice said.
"Access to, and entry upon these premises for any reason by any person is forbidden save with the express permission of AOG Maintenance Company... Trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."