Notes From The Margin

February 19, 2008

STRIKE OFF – Picking Up The Pieces….

At the eleventh hour the Barbados Workers Union deferred the strike action after taking the country to the brink of a National industrial action. Sir Roy Trottman, indicated that the action (or deferment of action) was taken due to the “newness of the current administration” . This dramatic climbdown came after a week of deadlocked talks, where both sides became more and more entrenched in their respective positions.

We on the Margin always felt that the Union had painted itself into a corner by reaching for the “big gun” prematurely. The lateness of this climb down also has several knock on effects that may be more long lasting.

American Airlines cancelled flights today and tomorrow into Barbados, stranding some Bajans in Puerto Rico. It is not clear how many tourists this has affected.

Cruise ship handlers had indicated that in the event of a strike the cruise ships scheduled for Barbados calls on Wednesday would divert to other nearby ports.  At the time of writing, it is unclear if they have diverted or if they will make their regularly scheduled call.

Certainly in looking at our WordPress data we can see that much of the traffic we have picked up is be people looking for informaition on strikes. We believe that many of these queries originate outside of Barbados and we have to wonder if the uncertainty will result in potential tourism business going elsewhere.

In short, even though the strike action is off, we on the Margin are deeply concerned about the impact the strike will have. We are concerned that this matter was allowed to develop to this stage and was not resolved earlier. Even though we may have dodged the strike we still stand to be affected.

This whole sorry episode will do nothing to enhance the reputation of the Union, or the new administration for that matter, who we think should have intervened in some form far earlier than they did.

We can only hope that this issue (which is still ongoing) will now be resolved in an amicable fashion.

Marginal

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February 14, 2008

Proposed Alliance Between LIAT & Caribbean Airlines – It’s Deja Vu!!!!!

Came across an article in the press yesterday that sounded like something we’d heard sometime before…….

 

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell is proposing the setting up of a new regional airline alliance including LIAT and the national carrier of Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean Airlines.Dr. Mitchell, who recently held talks with his Trinidadian counterpart Patrick Manning, also met Tuesday with the Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson with the matter of regional air transportation high on the agenda.

Grenada is a minority shareholder in LIAT and Dr. Mitchell is proposing that it enters a cooperative agreement with Caribbean Airlines for the benefit of the regional travelling public.

“What you need is a cooperative arrangement and Caribbean Airline providing services at particular times when LIAT is not able to service those areas, and there are so many opportunities for transport linkages that can be beneficial to any serious airline that we are not utilizing,” Dr. Mitchell told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

“In my view I would say that only five percent, maximum 10 percent of our people do get the opportunity to travel within the region, in light of the current transportation problems.

“We are talking about CSME (Caribbean Single Market and Economy) and regional cooperation and at the same time our people are not able to travel,” Dr. Mitchell added.

Hmmm….

Wonder if it will work this time.

Marginal

February 12, 2008

Barbados Taxi Drivers Threaten To Sue Local BMW Dealership For Poor Quality Service.

The Ultimate Driving Machine????

Local Barbadian Taxi drivers who have recently been in the news protesting poor service from the local BMW dealership have threatened to sue the dealership for time lost due to the vehicle being out of service. The taximen’s lawyer Chester Sue (No you can’t make stuff like this up) threatened the lawsuit to members of the local media today.

The taximen’s complaint was recently covered in the Nation newspaper.

Some of the protestors estimated they could lose $200 to $300 in business a day because of poor service.

Anthony Wood said he was “tired of the run around” and “the shabby treatment was just not right”.

“They tell you to bring the car for two weeks, and nothing is happening. When you come back for the car, nothing has been touched yet so the service is lousy. When I go to the insurance company, I can’t tell them I didn’t work this week, so I can’t give you any money,” Wood vented.

Lloyd Holder said: “It is ridiculous . . . . They lend us a loaner, but what can a loaner do for you? It can’t put any money in our pockets. It is to transport our families. We can’t use them for work. We are not begging them, we have bought the vehicles.”

Holder, the owner of a BMW for five years, said it had taken seven months to have his car alarm fixed.

The drivers said if the situation did not improve, their next step would be the law suit.

While reports on Starcom network today would suggest that the taximen have gone that further step, Managing Director of Warrens Motors indicated that he had not heard about the suit, but “would deal with it if it arose”. At the time of the earlier press article he indicated:

“We do all we can to address their issues. Nobody is laughing at them. We know they are businessmen and we understand and empathise with them when their vehicles are off the road.”

Based on today’s news report it would seem that the taximen have decided to ratchet up the pressure an additional notch.

We on the Margin do have to wonder why the taximen should feel that their only route available was to go public and to threaten going to the courts.  We can’t help but feel that the initial reaction from Warrens Motors may not have been as prompt as they felt they had a right to expect having bought the car reputed to be “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.  We can’t help but be disturbed by claims of transmissions “going bad” after only two years of service on what is supposed to be a top quality car. Yes taxi’s are run hard but hey IT’S A BMW!!!!

We will continue to follow this story.

 Marginal

January 30, 2008

Why did we get upset about Caribbean Star again?

Does anyone remember the arguments that were given around the time when Caribbean Star started up? This crossed my mind today, when I think back the main objection to Caribbean Star went something like this….
“We don’t want to have Caribbean Star run LIAT out of business and then have regional air travel at the mercy of an American who could then charge whatever he wanted”

That’s not a quote, that’s my summary of it.  So where are we now? Allan Stanford and the Caribbean governments have both spent huge amounts of money propping up unprofitable airlines. The standard of service was not raised by the competition, in fact Caribbean Star seemed to gravitate towards LIAT’s service levels.   However, fares were low and people traveled.

Realising that he was in a competition that couldn’t be won, Allan Standford blinked. “selling out” Caribbean Star in a merger with LIAT, and what has happened.

We now have an airline in the Caribbean that can offer terrible service, charges astronomical prices way above what the marketplace considers acceptable. Further it has a level of staffing (particularly in Antigua) that defies any rational economic explaination, and continues to be subsidised by the taxpayers of the shareholder governments.

Exactly HOW are we better off?

Marginal

January 29, 2008

The State Of Shipping In The Caribbean

We on the margin have for a long time been supporters of the idea of ferries in the Caribbean. In our view one of the most serious barriers to regional integration and the creation of a single market and economy, is the sheer difficulty faced by an individual attempting to move around the Caribbean. Moving people and goods from island to island is hugely difficult, and that has several knock on effects in the economies of the region.

In Europe it is possible to drive on to a ferry in Scotland and be in Ireland a couple of hours later driving YOUR car on Irish roads, all for the price of a ferry fare. It is possible to ship container loads of merchandise/products/food/whatever on the same ferry without even taking them off of the truck! When you contrast this ease of movement with the situation in the Caribbean it’s pathetic.

Move a car? Sorry you only have one seat on LIAT (world’s most expensive low cost carrier) and 50lbs of baggage, and when we get to our destination we are greeted by Immigration officers and Customs Officer who seem to have difficulty with the concept of people wanting to travel to another island. There was a brief moment of hope during the Cricket World Cup when we had the single space, but that seems to have separated back into the default position of fragmentation.

President of the CDB Prof. Compton Bourne, touched on these issues recently in a speech where he highlighted the difficulty in moving goods from areas with excess productive capacity to areas with demand for those goods.

“There are countries in the region that have considerable food production capacity, but their arrangements for trade in the region are far
from adequate.”

This made it very difficult to supply the markets that are experiencing shortages or to provide a cheaper source of commodities to those markets with the existing arrangements, he argued.

“First of all, shipping is very poor within the region,” he charged. “Our shipping arrangements are largely geared towards bringing commodities from outside the region to the region, rather than moving commodities between the various islands and countries in the Caribbean.

“Secondly, our port facilities in the main for CARICOM trade are atrocious, often under-staffed, often not provided with the requisite phyto-sanitary inspection facilities and sometimes characterised
by a bit of hostility towards the trade. . . .”

For the single market and economy to become a reality, there needs to be ease of trade, and ease of travel, at the moment it is easier to get items out of a furniture store in Miami than it is to get it from a furniture manufacturer in Guyana. To speak of a single economic space is a farce unless this situation is rectified.

Marginal

January 10, 2008

Politicians, It’s One Week Before Elections, Do You Know Where Your Vote Is?

With one week left to go before elections, Barbados is in the grips of one of the most intense election campaigns in recent memory. The two parties’ campaigns appear to be evenly matched, and evenly funded, and to a certain extent evenly supported. We on the Margin have been watching the silly season unfold in all its glory, and we have to admit we are unable to predict a winner at this stage.

Yes, if you listen to Waiting In Vain and Royal Rumble and the other party hacks that inhabit the blogosphere, they all predict a resounding victory for their particular party. But having spent the last week talking to many people, we think that both parties are “Whistling past the graveyard”. For as much bluster as either side makes we’re not sure that either of them has captured the hearts of the electorate.  Barbadians are looking at both parties with a skeptical eye and the hard truth is that this election could go either way.

What we have noted that this campaign has been more about accusations and counter accusations rather than issues. We would like to see some serious discussion about both parties’ visions for the next five years. While we wish that we could say that we thought we would get such reasoned debate in the next next week, we really don’t think so. We think that this next week will get wilder and dirtier with each passing day.

We on the margin would urge Barbadians,  think long and hard about both parties before you go into the polling booth. Whoever you choose is entirely up to you, but be sure to participate, be sure to cast your x. Be sure to treat that decision with the seriousness it deserves.  Hopefully we will all be better off for your doing so.

Marginal

December 26, 2007

Delays, Lost Luggage, Chaos at Check In on LIAT – The World’s Most Expensive Low Cost Carrier!

One of the consistent themes of conversation this Christmas is the Worlds Most Expensive Low Cost Carrier LIAT. Across the Caribbean people are still waiting for luggage with Christmas gifts and just their basic necessities to arrive. Many of them are hoping their luggage will arrive before they have to go back home (on TWMELCC) when it probably will be lost again.

Those of us on the margin, can only comment on the chaos at the check in counter in Barbados which required Airport Security and Police to be called to keep order. It should be noted that this disorder stemmed from the fact that none of the passengers having the remotest idea what was happening with their flight. To the observer it appeared that the logic was whoever pushed their way to the counter got checked in. Whoever didn’t; got left.

No effort was made by LIAT to tell passengers where they should queue. No staff member out front, no indication on the fancy new flat screens above the check in, not even a note written in marker on paper and stuck where people could see it. Calls to all LIAT numbers were met with either no answers or voice mails which gave the obviously irrellevant flight schedule. The chaos at the check in could have been avoided by simply telling people what was going on.

Yes we on the margin can appreciate that LIAT was struggling to move the back log due to industrial action by it’s cabin crew, however how they managed that back log was pathetic and inexcusable. The staff members appeared to be carrying out the same processes as if it were a normal day, when it was clearly anything but. Having let things got out of hand they had to resort to airport security and police to restore order.

It should be noted that we have only good things to say about how the police and the security officers took control of the situation in a professional manner without needing to resort to strong arm tactics.

LIAT’s shareholders need to ask some hard questions about what is being done with their money. We now have a monopoly carrier that treats its customers with disdain and charges higher prices while insulting our intelligence by telling us they are a “low cost airline”

Marginal

November 29, 2007

Magnitude 7.3 Earthquake Hits the Caribbean

We all bolted for the door this afternoon as we felt and saw the ground shake beneath our feet. Outside other persons were rushing from buildings and car alarms were going off. By the time we realised what was going on it was beginning to subside. Everyone is asking what’s going on and no one appears to know. Calls on cell phones are met with “Network Busy”, calls on landlines are met with busy tones. No one is hurt but everyone is calling their loved ones to see that they are okay. People are sounding strained on the phone not because they are scared for themselves but because they fear for those dear to them. “My husband is on a construction site”, “My parents are on a plane coming in, will the airport be okay?” “I can’t get through to my children’s school I wonder if they are okay?”  a jumbled montage of thoughts and of concern.

It now appears that there has been a major earthquake just north of Martinique magnitude 7.3 (some sites are reporting 7.4)  it was strong enough to knock a house down in St. George, reports from friends in St. Lucia, Grenada and Trinidad have all reported feeling it and have all reported that they are fine. (thank goodness)

No word yet from Martinique or Dominica. As we get word we’ll post.

It’s a time to hug your family and count your blessings, it could have been much much worse.

Marginal

October 21, 2007

Regional Travel To Become Cheaper! (Don’t Hold Your Breath!)

CBC carried a story with the headline with regard to a recent meeting between regional ministers of Tourism and Civil Aviation. Spokesman Alan Chastenet (St. Lucia) gave the following statement.

 “We will be paying attention to a structure in which regional carriers can all collaborate with each other, and given the size and population of the region, make our region more affordable by jointly agreeing to streamline international regulations which do not apply to our area but only make access to international airlift more expensive and complicated,”

Not to be left out BArbados’ Noel Lynch chimed in….

“We have been able to make significant headway on issues and set a timetable to achieve functional cooperation between airlines, determining the benchmarks which allow other regions with similar development profiles to achieve the success that continues to elude us, and resolving issues which retard our growth such as taxation, costs, over regulation, and the concept not only of open skies but a common airspace,”

Now we on the margin have heard promises many times on this matter. It would appear from the press statements  that they seem to have agreed to agreee, but from our reading of the article it doesn’t look like if there has been much substantial progress yet.

So we will remain hopeful, but we won’t get our hopes up.

Marginal

October 5, 2007

The Concorde Experience

Filed under: airport,aviation,Barbados,Barbados Media,Media,tourism,transport — notesfromthemargin @ 2:32 am
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We took a trip up to the Airport to see the “Barbados Concorde Experience” this weekend. I have to say that I was very impressed with what I saw. After all of the stories in the press about the Concorde that was “rusting” or “rotting”, I am very happy to report that the aircraft appeared (at least to my eye) in pristine condition.

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Apart from the Concorde itself, the entire display was outstanding, there is an audio visual show called “Engineered for Speed” which is positively world class. To call it an audio visual show really is a bit of an understatement (you will understand this comment if you have seen the show). The tour guides that gave us the tour were well briefed and were able to answer our questions.

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The tour took us inside the Concorde and once again the interior is also in immaculate condition. One particular highlight was the Captain’s hat. The story goes that when the aircraft is traveling supersonically it stretches by several inches. As such there is a seam that opens in the cockpit to accommodate this. During the last flight the captain placed his hat in the seam (which of course closed back when the aircraft slowed down) Hence the cap is locked in place forever as the plane will not fly again. (quite poetic really)

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As an attraction, there are only 5 of these British Airways aircraft in the world (in fact the comment was made that a B.A. crew who toured the facility had never been on the Concorde before) so to have this here in Barbados can only be a positive for our tourism product.

All of us from the margin were VERY impressed by the show and the facility as a whole and we would recommend this attraction to anyone.

Go and see for yourself.
Marginal

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