PM makes case to save Air Jamaica jobs

KINGSTON, Jamaica, May 29, 2008 – Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding is seeking to secure the jobs of Air Jamaica employees even as his government embarks on a programme to transfer the national airline over to private operators.

He said a major concern in negotiations to privatise the national carrier would be the retention of staff and the preservation of Jamaican jobs. He added that another condition of any deal would be the continuation of the Air Jamaica brand.

Mr Golding made the points in response to questions from the audience at the final leg of his four-city whistle-stop tour of the United Kingdom recently.

The Jamaica leader said his government was duty bound to honour deals made by the previous administration but was busy preparing to invite bids from investors to secure the airline’s future.

While not making any promises about a reinstallation of the UK routes which were cancelled, he said the idea was to attract an investor capable of integrating the airline into the wider network of international carriers to guarantee seamless airlift to Jamaica from anywhere in the world.

“We have a major problem with airlift to service the tourism industry. We want to make sure that anybody who is successful in acquiring Air Jamaica will be able to afford people anywhere in the world the opportunity to make their bookings in one place and be assured of a high standard of service along the route to Jamaica,” Mr Golding said.

The Jamaica government decided to divest the national carrier saying it could no longer pile the losses of the airline on the backs of taxpayers.

The airline is expected to be divested by the end of this fiscal year.

Prime Minister Golding indicated that his government had engaged the services of the IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank, as consultants/advisors on the process of divesting Air Jamaica.

The government’s broad objectives are the transfer of complete or substantial majority ownership and full management control to the private sector; the recapitalisation of the airline; the retention and long-term sustainability of Air Jamaica as the national carrier; and the structural or contractual linkage to a major global carrier.