Wescot-Williams cautiously optimistic about developments at Winair

POSTED: 05/25/12 2:15 PM

St. Maarten – “Cautiously optimistic,” is how Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams described her feelings about developments at Winair on Wednesday. The PM is the airline’s shareholder representative, a function she also holds for the TelEm Group of Companies. Both companies are going through a restructuring process.
The Prime Minister said that under the leadership of the airline’s new board, employees are cooperating well and changes continue to be implemented for the carrier’s survivability.
Winair’s ownership was transferred to St. Maarten and the Netherlands on the day the island became an autonomous country in the Kingdom. The airline had a negative equity of 16 million guilders ($8.9 million) and an accumulated debt of more than 20 million ($11.1 million). The airline’s fleet was sold in 2006 through a sale and leaseback arrangement in an attempt to raise capital. Currently, the company pays between $30,000 and $32,000 per month for each of the three De Havilland DHC6-300 Twin Otters.
Winair managed to bring down its annual debt from 5 million to 900,000 guilders in fourteen months (from $2.8 million to $500,000) and to reduce its staff by 30 percent from 106 to the 74 in January. Prime Minister Wescot-Williams said that she was unaware of the exact figures now but apart from terminating the contracts of seasonal employees, decisions are being made to ensure that the airline improves its service to neighboring destinations before expanding further.
“Seeking to do as little damage as possible to the current employees, the focus was placed on those with seasonal contracts and the like. Apart from releasing seasonal employees, some steps that needed to be taken not only in the area of personnel but also in the area routing; these things have been done,” the Prime Minister said.
An ad-hoc committee established by Wescot-Williams in October 2010 to assess the situation at the airline found that financial reporting was deficient and untimely, and that the staffing levels were artificially high.

Also commenting on the restructuring at the Telem Group of Companies in which 15 employees from various departments were granted voluntary leave another five more were denied, the Prime Minister said that, “It is a total restructuring package and this is only part of that package.”
“The preparations for a social plan for TelEm have been ongoing for a while with the workers of TelEm and processes like these are always delicate processes especially when we are talking the livelihoods of people,” the Prime Minister added.
Wescot-Williams was quick to point out that “the whole process has not been a hap hazard one” in order for Telem to live up to what they have proposed to their workers. The Prime Minister added that the execution of the telecommunications company’s social plan for affected will create a large dent in the company’s budget.
The decision to grant voluntary leave to fifteen employees from various departments was taken by TelEm Group’s management board on May 3 and May 4 in continuing discussion with union representatives. Five requests were denied.

“It is management’s view that these five employees most likely can be placed in the new operating company (based on the company’s formation plan) or of which TelEm Group can reasonably state that they would otherwise receive a reasonable offer for a function in the new operating company,” TelEm said in a press release issued yesterday.

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