Monday, Oct 21, 2019
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Auto payment at pumps sparks layoff fears

Gas retailers are welcoming the addition of automated payment at the pumps, but warned RUBIS not to lay off workers that depend on the stations for employment.

As part of the French multinational’s revamp of its 20 gas stations in The Bahamas, automated payment will be included so customers can swipe a card rather than pay an attendant.  In fact, a test program is being piloted at the Faith Avenue location.

In other countries, self-service gas stations are commonplace.

But Philip Kemp, president of the Bahamas Petroleum Retailers Association (BPRA), believes Bahamians are used to full service at the pumps.

He said that locals have no intention of doing it themselves, even if the process is automated.

“Automated won’t mean there will be full service at the pumps.  You still have the stores.  Lots of people pay in cash,” he said.  “Staff reductions won’t happen right away.  Maybe over time.”

Aussie Moore, another gas retailer, said staff reductions were the “first thing that came to mind” when he heard about the automated system.

He told Guardian Business that RUBIS should keep the stations full service.  Unlike some other countries, he said The Bahamas is limited in its industries.

“Our means of keeping people employed is limited.  This is one of the ways.  My feeling is we have to continue full service as long as we can to keep people employed,” according to Moore.

That said, the retailer is not against automatic payment, as much of the world has gone in this direction.  It can be more convenient, and overall retailers have praised RUBIS for improving the stations, introducing new equipment and generally approaching business with a more friendly and personable demeanor.

Since acquiring Chevron’s assets last year, RUBIS has poured millions into stations across the country.  By August, all of the stations will undergo a rebranding, including the launch of a new convenience store product.

Raymond Claridge, a former Texaco retailer who clashed with the old owners, said automated payment is the “wrong thing at the wrong time”.

“I know the world is getting more mechanized, but we need employment.  The people who are suffering tend to be these kinds of people.  They depend on that work,” he added. “Maybe in three or four more years it would make more sense.”

Claridge said that his experience with Bahamians is people will refuse to pump their own gas.

“I feel a large percentage have been spoiled over the years and it will be hard for the public to accept that.  Eventually they will though because that’s the way the world is going,” he said.

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