Citing financial difficulties, the state-owned BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA) had cut the regular working hours of its hourly staff in May 2020, just around the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, the schedule of hourly-paid employees had been reduced to 30 work hours per week; down from the regular 40 hours.
While noting the cuts were aimed at reducing “financial strain” caused largely by the pandemic, Premier Fahie told the House of Assembly the savings amounted to $488,063.50.
Annual compensation for executives, directors and managers at the Ports, he added, amounted to nearly $1.5 million.
According to the Premier, while none of the permanent, salaried executives was affected by the cuts, a similar reduction in their hours would have only gained the BVIPA $267,082.48 in savings.
Among other factors, Fahie blamed the previous NDP administration’s financial handling of the Ports and their 2014 investment of more than $20M into the Pier Park development project for the financial hardship the BVIPA is currently experiencing.
“If the cash resources [prior to this government] were still available to the Authority, there would be no need to have reduced hours of employees or to increase Port fees at this time,” said Premier Fahie who is also the Minister of Finance with responsibility for Ports.
Fahie emphatically denied that he or his Cabinet had been consulted ahead of the decision to cut the working hours of the Port staff, adding that he was only told afterwards.
The Premier further told the House he strongly encouraged the BVIPA the savings should come from elsewhere; insisting that he did not throw the Ports under the proverbial bus in asking that they reverse their decision.
The Authority previously cut the work hours and pay of its staff following the onslaught of hurricanes Irma and Maria back in 2017.
The employees have reportedly since resumed full working hours.