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BAHAMAS: BPL Statement On Industrial Action

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#TheBahamas, June 28, 2021 – Bahamas Power and Light Company Limited (BPL) values and appreciates its line staff, many of whom have gone and continue to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that our customers are serviced even in these trying and sometimes frightening times. The Company seeks always to treat our staff with respect and dignity, and to reward them according to their work and the terms of the Industrial Agreement. BPL takes exception, however, to a number of claims made during an illegal industrial action taken at the Peter I. Bethel Building today, Monday, June 28, 2021.

It was falsely claimed that Executive management has refused to sit with the line union and discuss employee benefits. The union president has, in fact, met with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Executive Director (ED) and the Director of Human Resources (DHR) many times including a meeting that was held in the training room with Union Executives, BPL Board and BPL Executives.

The Company rejects the assertion that benefits have been denied to “many deserving employees.”  The Company also rejects the assertion that there exists at BPL an environment of “gross favoritism,” unfair promotions, unfair hiring practices, and what were called “reckless skip-overs.”

It was said that most departments in the main HQ have been affected by COVID19, and that more than once CEO has shut down remote workspace, forcing people to come and work in office. We have established our COVID19 protocols in accordance with recommendations of the health professionals and communicated those protocols to employees and their union representatives. 

The Company was also accused of “forcing” some Abaco staff to go home. 

Following the passing of Hurricane Dorian, BPL was the first to provide private air services for the evacuation of employees who wanted to leave Abaco and their families. The employees were temporarily assigned throughout the operations in New Providence and to a lesser degree, the Family Islands, with the understanding that they were expected to return as needed in Abaco.  In September 2020, the employees of Abaco that remained in New Providence were advised of the need for them to return to their duties in Abaco on November 1, 2020. Following a request from the employees and their Union representatives to have employees remain until April 30, 2021, employees were advised to return to Abaco on June 1, 2021. 

We note that reference was made to various legal matters, including a reference to “questionable pension transactions and deductions”, “examination of the validity of a VSEP document and the rules by which the VSEP was carried out,” unaddressed claims of sexual harassment, unilateral changes to employee benefits, unilateral changes to job descriptions, variation of working conditions and failure to promote. 

Firstly, pension deductions are part of the direct contribution plan which only new employees have joined since 2018 and they determine how much they wish to voluntarily contribute. Contributions are deducted from their salary with their consent. And while we do not wish to comment further on matters before the court, we will say that BPL has conducted a number of promotions over the past year.

We deny, however, that the Company has “virtually disregarded” the Industrial Agreement which the union believes to be properly valid. The Industrial Agreement provides a mechanism for the settlement of disputes or breaches of the agreement, which include notification of one party to the other prior to the involvement of a third party. 

Finally, the assertion that BPL Station A plant, which is operated and managed by Wӓrtsilӓ, is “becoming unreliable” and “constantly running out of fuel” flies in the face of the truth and the record. Both SAIDI and SAIFI – industry standard metrics dealing with reliability of electricity supply – have significantly improved and Station A has and continues to be a reason for this improvement in reliability. In addition, we reported a short time ago that a senior Wӓrtsilӓ official conducted an operational audit at Station A to ensure the best operation and utmost reliability of the plant. As a consequence, the company has implemented new systems designed to ensure the efficient operation of the plant.

And with regard to the assertion that there are “holes” in the load shedding forecast, the engines cited by the union president were not included in the count given by the Minister of Public Works in the House of Assembly. Without the engines the union president cited, we are still able to account for between 315 – 350 megawatts of power against a 250 megawatt summer peak load. If all things remain equal, we are confident that load shedding will not be necessary.

Thank you.

K. Quincy Parker, Director, Public Relations

kqparker@bplco.com

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Bahamas Development Bank Launches 50th Anniversary Celebrations  

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Nassau Bahamas, 3 March 2024- The Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) recently commenced its golden anniversary celebrations with special church services held at Freeport Bible Church and Golden Gates Native Baptist Church, in Grand Bahama and New Providence respectively. Both services marked the beginning of a year filled with commemorations of the bank’s 50 years of financial service and national development.

Bahamas Development Bank Managing Director, Nicholas Higgs, said, “As we launch our 50th anniversary celebrations, we are reminded of our journey fueled by an unwavering commitment to our country. As we look forward to the next 50 years and beyond, we remain dedicated to fostering economic growth, supporting local entrepreneurs, and building a prosperous future for The Bahamas.”

The New Providence service was led by Pastor Alonso Hinsey Jr., who serves not only as the senior pastor of Golden Gates Native Baptist Church but also as an executive at BDB. In his sermon, Pastor Hinsey emphasized the importance of trusting God and being trustworthy as two sides of the same coin.

“Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship and our relationship with God is no exception. When we trust God, we believe who He says that He is, what He is going to do, and that He will do what He says He will do. We rely on Him to guide us, protect us, and to provide for us. Being trustworthy is just as important. When we are trustworthy, others can rely on us to keep our promises, can rely on us to tell the truth, and act with integrity.”

He referenced the story of God ordering Abraham to sacrifice his promised son Isaac.

“Trust is not easy when facing challenges. However, even in the midst of our doubts and fears, God is faithful and trustworthy.  When we are trustworthy, others know they can rely on us and that they will not be let down. When we are trustworthy, we are reflecting the character of God who faithful and true,” Pastor Hinsey added.

Hinsey also stressed that, “Trustworthiness is essential for building strong relationships and creating a just and harmonious society.”

The Bahamas Development Bank has been instrumental in providing financial solutions and expertise to Bahamian businesses and entrepreneurs, driving economic growth and sustainability across the country. The 50th anniversary marks a significant milestone in the bank’s history and will be marked by a variety of events, including community outreach initiatives, competitions, and celebrations that both reflect on the bank’s past accomplishments and outline its way forward.

Pastor Hinsey’s powerful message can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/live/c0FxUErI65o?si=em2vTZ7AfPIZklNk.

 

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Abaco Hurricane Shelter ‘progressing’ despite inherited delays

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Bahamas Information Services

March 3, 2024



Central Pines, ABACO, The Bahamas – The new, State-of-the-Art Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre currently under construction in Central Pines, Abaco, is scheduled to be fully completed by November 2024, despite some inherited delays.

Contractors add that the dual Shelter/Community Centre, which is anticipated to be a prototype for the future design and construction of shelters in The Bahamas, will have an “occupied date” of early summer, meaning that the facility should be available to host those persons requiring assistance at that time, if the need arises.  This is good news as the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and runs through November 30.  Abaconians will continue to have access to a host of other approved shelters throughout the island, and not just rely on the prototype alone, however.

Disaster Risk Management officials further say the dual Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre will be “one of a kind” in the region in terms of its construction and design. The building is being constructed under “a new building code,” that calls for its structure – doors, window, roof — to withstand hurricane force winds of up to 250 miles per hour (Category 5 Hurricane and higher).

Its mechanical systems are designed to accommodate diverse loads, including an industrial kitchen, communication systems, air-conditioning system, male and female bathrooms and showers, office spaces for emergency personnel, in addition to storage areas.

Standby generators to ensure continuity with communications, water, sewerage, air-conditioning, refrigeration, safety and security, will be installed in order to mitigate the impacts of disruptions in power.

A ramp that was not included in the original design, was added to allow persons with disabilities and the elderly — considered two of the more vulnerable populations particularly during natural disasters such as tropical storms and/or hurricanes — easy frontal access to the facility under the protection of a canopy.

“Construction is going very well, particularly now that we are back on schedule,” said Mr. Chris Symonette, Project Manager. “We had lost almost a year due to some faults that we found in the ground, and in the foundation, we met in place when we assumed responsibility for the project. These corrective measures took us about 9 months to resolve.

“The building is one of a kind in the region. As a matter of fact, this will be the first 250 miles-per-hour hurricane shelter design in The Bahamas. We had to exceed the ratings while ensuring that we have redundancy upon redundancy,” Mr. Symonette added.

Raeh Williams, a Director, with Wilkem Solutions, a Bahamian-owned entity that specializes in development, civil works and waste management, among other services, said the construction team has been “pushing every day” to ensure that they meet the projected dates. The company took over construction operations a little over one year ago.

“We met a lot of challenges that were a real test of our skill and tenacity because there were caves, holes and a lot of other issues that basically caused us to have to perform a lot of corrective work to get us where we are today. The scheduled completion date is November 2024, but we are anticipating having an occupied completion by June/July which is right at the beginning of the Hurricane Season so that if there is some need to use the shelter, it will be available. That is our push and we are pushing every day to make sure that we stick to that.”

 

PHOTO CAPTIONS

Header: Minister Lundy and delegation reviewing building plans for the multi-purpose Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre. (BIS Photo)

1st insert: Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre Project Manager Chris Symonette (right) updates Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Risk Management, the Hon. Leon Lundy (second right) during State-Minister Lundy’s Official Visit.  (BIS Photo)

2nd insert: Minister Lundy (second right) and team conduct a walk-through of the multi-purpose Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre under construction in Central Pines.  Also pictured (from left) are: Mr. Kirk Cornish, Member of Parliament, North Abaco, and Mr. John H. Pinder, Member of Parliament for South and Central Abaco and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation.  Project Manager, Mr. Chris Symonette is at far right. (BIS Photo)

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Over 9.6 Million Tourists for The Bahamas, 38 percent jump

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Rashaed Esson

Staff Writer

#TheBahamas, March 3, 2024 – The Bahamas has again positioned itself as a top destinations within the Caribbean with record breaking tourism arrivals in 2023, an unprecedented milestone as announced by the Ministry of Tourism Investments and Aviation

A massive 9,654,838 visitors arrived in The Bahamas, indicating a 38 percent increase from 2022 as well as 33 percent rise from the previous record of 2019, before the pandemic.

Delving into the details of this surge in arrivals, air arrivals increased by 17 percent with 1,719,980 visitors up from 1,470, 244 in 2022.

Cruise arrivals went up significantly by 43.5 percent at 7, 934,858 up from 5,530,462 in 2022.

According to reports, New Providence saw 4,441,540 visitors, a 36 percent increase from 2022 while Grand Bahama attracted 559,812 visitors, a 44 percent increase.

The Family Islands brought in 4,653,486 tourists which is a 40 percent increase from 2022.

Chester Cooper, Minister of Tourism Investments and Aviation and Latia Duncombe, Director General of Tourism, as featured in reports, expressed great pride in this achievement, marking it as an indicator of The Bahamas’ hard work and dedication to foster and maintain tourism growth.

“This record-breaking year is a clear indication of the Bahamas’ position as a top-tier destination for travelers seeking unparalleled experiences. Our islands offer a unique blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and warm hospitality, making it a favorite of visitors from around the world,” said Cooper

Duncombe referred to future success for The Bahamas, with this development as a stepping stone.

“With our commitment to excellence and innovation in the tourism sector, the Bahamas is poised for even greater success in the years to come,” she maintained.

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