Update: Jamaica Gleaner
I wish to express concern on behalf of the Air Jamaica Privatisation Committee, which I chair, about a misleading story – headlined ‘Air Jamaica Sold …’ – which appeared in the Saturday, July 4, issue of The Gleaner.
I characterise the story as ‘misleading’ because Air Jamaica has not yet been sold. It was stated clearly in a news update which was issued June 30, that the privatisation committee has made a recommendation regarding a possible transaction. The press release also made it clear that a decision on that recommendation had to be made by Cabinet and the board of Air Jamaica. Neither of those activities has as yet taken place.
No contracts signed
Additionally, both the headline and the other sections of The Gleaner’s July 4 story – which named two firms which “have bought the country’s national carrier, Air Jamaica” – give the impression that the privatisation committee and the minister have misled the country by executing a sale, while advising the country that only a recommendation, which is to be decided upon, has been made. This is far from true and I use this opportunity to reiterate that such formal approvals have not been made and that no contracts have as yet been signed with anyone.
Recent experience with other privatisation efforts should make everyone aware of just how carefully negotiations of this nature must be handled. The negotiations to privatise Air Jamaica are at an extremely delicate stage and the confidentiality arrangements remain in place until initial agreements are signed, key stakeholders are brought up to date on the possible implications of the sale and there is final closure.
While we understand the desire of media houses to ‘scoop’ each other on matters of national interest, such as the Air Jamaica privatisation, we urge that care be taken to ensure that nothing is done to derail what is a critical transaction for and on behalf of all the people of Jamaica.
I am, etc.,
Two of the trade unions which represent Air Jamaica workers have reacted angrily to a newspaper report that the national carrier has been sold to United States based carrier Spirit AirlinesThe story has raised the ire of union leaders who have been at odds with the Government over the poor communication of plans to sell the airline and how workers will be affected.
According to the Gleaner story, Air Jamaica has been sold to the owners of Spirit Airlines and the name of the national airline may be changed.
This has angered Vice President of the National Workers Union, (NWU) Granville Valentine. Mr. Valentine also has serious concerns about the secrecy under which the sale has been done.
“It is unfortunate that the Steering Committee which was in place and which included the unions, was not aware of the bidders (or) of the final decision, and to hear it publicly tells us how somewhat of how the Government does business. It is not democratic, it is not something that people of this country has any say in … it tells us that it is the private sector that is running this country.
“How can you have two of the leading unions within the union as a party to this process and we know nothing of what transpired,” Mr. Valentine asked.
“At this stage of the game, it is still a recommendation that is supposed to go before Cabinet but Cabinet and the Government must make a decision. The first concern is what changes are going to be made to Air Jamaica since Spirit is a low cost airline. “We have seen where the trimming of staff started as part of the business plan
but we don’t know to what extent the changes are going to be made and how any changes will impact on the workforce,” said Mr. Gayle.
He like Mr. Valentine is expecting to have discussions with the Government and the management of Air Jamaica before a final decision is made to sell the airline.
When contacted Information Minister Daryl Vaz said Cabinet has not yet signed off on the sale of the airline. He added that the NWU will be seeking a meeting with the Government and Air Jamaica’s management as the unions should be consulted before a deal is inked.
In the meantime, President General of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union Kavon Gayle says he wants to know what changes are coming to Air Jamaica when the sale is approved. He says this is unacceptable as Air Jamaica is a brand that is known worldwide.