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Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, has said that Caribbean Airlines is the most probable buyer of Air Jamaica at this time and the company’s proposal is being actively considered.
He was speaking at today’s (February 3) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
While acknowledging the interest of the Jamaica Airline Pilots Association (JALPA), Minister Shaw said that the group’s bid, “coming as late in the day as it has come, could not be allowed to supersede the procurement process. In fact, the actual business plan from JALPA has only come to us within the past few days.”
Mr. Shaw stressed that a successful consideration of JALPA’s interest based on a business plan, and a credible financing plan, would only be considered if there is fallout in the Caribbean Airlines arrangement or if an agreement could not be reached with the bidder next in line.
“Then, we would have to reopen the bidding process so that others, whether JALPA or others who wish to bid, would be able to do so,” he said, noting that there is at least one other interested party in the Aid Jamaica deal.
The government is now in receipt of an updated letter of intent from Caribbean Airlines, and is preparing a draft shareholders agreement. “The objective being that Caribbean Airlines would, essentially, be operating a number of key, core routes, primarily routes such as New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Toronto and Fort Lauderdale,” Mr. Shaw outlined.
He noted that at the appropriate time, both parties will make a joint statement in which all details of the agreement will be set out.
In the meantime, Mr. Shaw, is urging union representatives for employees of Air Jamaica, to desist from taking an approach to the divestment issue that is potentially hostile and destabilizing.
Mr. Shaw stated that the threat of industrial action was an approach that could cause further losses to the national carrier.
While assuring that the workers’ redundancy payments are “safe and secure”, Mr. Shaw cautioned that any cash loss to Air Jamaica at this time, due to industrial action, “could compromise the Government’s ability to pay out the redundancy on a timely basis”.
He gave the undertaking that jobs will be available in all categories, even with the divestment. “By virtue of Jamaica’s strategic location, we will still have to have maintenance of planes, we will still have to have ground staff, and we will still require air hostesses and pilots. That is an absolute fact,” he stated.