Sacked Fly Jamaica staff annoyed at Govt’s response

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By Bibi Khatoon

Former employees of Fly Jamaica Airways are upset with the Government’s slothful approach to addressing their concerns relating to the now defunct airline.

The workers, who were last paid in November 2018 and are owed millions of dollars in severance from the company, were invited to a meeting by the Ministry of Social Protection’s Department of Labour on Tuesday.

While 53 employees turned up expecting some form of assistance from the Government, they were told that the Ministry is now starting the process to deal with the matter.

“What a waste of time,” said Teasha Corbin, a former employee.

The meeting was held in the upper flat of the Ministry’s Brickdam office where the ex-employees were made to stand in between cubicles for over an hour.

Corbin said it is unacceptable that after seven months since the airline’s Boeing 757 aircraft crash -landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, the Ministry officials are stating that they “have no proper knowledge of the issue at hand.”

“We all know Fly Jamaica crashed November 9.

Minister responsible for Labour, Keith Scott speaking with reporters

“November, December, January, February, March, April, May…we’re now in June and now this Ministry is saying to Fly Jamaica employees that they have no knowledge really understanding the matter at hand so really I don’t know where we at and I’m very disappointed,” Corbin.

She worked with Fly Jamaica for about six years in the company’s Inflight Services department.

“Hundreds of us are out of jobs; we have children, we have bills, etc. and to date, not even one help from the Ministry!” she exclaimed.

She expressed disappointment that the employees were not given the opportunity to meet with the Minister responsible for Labour, Keith Scott, who also at the location.

“We expected that the Minister would have met with us and have something positive to say to us regarding some help for the company or regarding our monies that Fly Jamaica owes us,” Corbin noted.

The Minister was approached for a comment by the media as he was leaving the Brickdam location but bluntly said that he did not call the meeting and is not dealing with the issue.

Some of the former employees

According to the ex-employees, the Ministry’s Labour Department called them to inform that they need to give statements to the Ministry.

“They’re now looking to contact the relevant officials to get a statement from them; then they’ll start the process,” Gina McCamley said.

McCamley worked with the airline for just under one year.

She pointed out that the wait for their salaries and benefits is frustrating since they all have bills to pay and families to take care of.

“We were hoping to get an answer today about when we will get our monies,” she said.

Ian Husbands, another ex-employee related to the News Room that he receives calls from Courts Guyana- which offers furniture and other items on hire purchase – for payments which he owes.

He said he approached Fly Jamaica for a letter which he can provide to the store in lieu of his installments until he finds employment but this was denied.

Husbands said the company’s representatives also asked him to resign before he can be given a recommendation letter but this would forfeit all benefits owed to him.

While the Ministry reportedly said it was unaware of the issue, Lauresa Lewis- Nelson told the News Room that she has been going to the Ministry since December to have an investigation launched.

She said she worked with the airline since the start of its operation in Guyana and is owed close to $1M in severance and monthly salaries.

The woman said she even went as far as to revisit the Ministry when the owner of the airline was in Guyana to inform them of same, but “nothing was done.”

“They promised us to call us and they never did; they took our names, where we were working in the company and how long we would have been off but never called us,” she related.

Lewis-Nelson, who was a security supervisor, said “if the matter was taken into hand at that point in time, something could have been done…we could have been a step ahead. Doing it now is like they were dragging their foot.”

The Labour Officer was approached for a comment but declined.

The employees were fired approximately five months after the company’s aircraft crashed.

The flight, OJ256 with 118 passengers and eight crew members, crash-landed shortly after it took off for Toronto, Canada. Reports at the time suggested that the aircraft experienced mechanical difficulties, forcing it to abort the flight and head back to Guyana.

In a March 29 letter, chairman and chief executive officer, Paul Ronald Reece, said: “Due to our lack of aircraft and the impact that it has had on the company’s financial position, we have no alternative, but to make all employees redundant, effective March 31, 2019.”

It was explained that a number of the workers did not officially receive a redundancy letter and some of their contracts expired at the end of 2018.

The workers said a letter without their names and break down of services was sent electronically to them, indicating that their services were no longer needed.

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