Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that the government will have to make a decision whether to continue paying Bahamasair workers their full salaries amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has left the national airline operating a reduced schedule.
He said if a decision is made to implement temporary salary cuts for Bahamasair workers, his colleagues are also prepared to take similar cuts. Minnis did not clarify if he meant Cabinet ministers or all government MPs.
“Around the world, as airlines are parked, not flying, airlines are filing for bankruptcy,” he said.
“Bahamasair is supported by the government and the people of The Bahamas. Yet, its staff are fully paid, but yet no work.
“I spoke to my colleagues this morning in the Caribbean, and at some point in time we will have to make a decision – I’m not saying we’re doing it now – whether Bahamasair staff who are sitting there, and the aircraft that are sitting there, should we pay them a percentage of their pay, let’s say 70 percent and defer the other 30 until things have changed.”
He added, “That is something we have to think about and it’s a difficult decision.
“But I’ve always said the nation must always come first. Politicians would be afraid to make such decisions because of the possible outcome. But sometimes, as politicians, we must make difficult decisions in the interest of the nation or we all drown.”
He added, “I am reminded by my colleagues that should we make such a decision, in terms of deferring a percentage of individuals’ salaries, that they are all prepared to defer a portion of theirs also in the interest of the country,” he said.
The announcement came only days after Bahamasair suspended flights to Florida due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas.
When COVID-19 first began spreading in the country, the government closed the borders and banned inter island travel.
Commercial domestic travel resumed in early June.
On July 1 the borders reopened. However, Minnis announced on Sunday that commercial flights to the US are no longer permitted.