Air traffic problems not settled
Air traffic controllers at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) were back on the job after staging a five-hour work stoppage this morning that affected flights in and out of Barbados.
However, Deputy Director of Industrial Relations with the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Dwaine Paul told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that if management did not honour an action plan to improve the air quality within the control tower by tonight, workers would be back on picket line tomorrow.
It was around 7 a.m. that air traffic controllers withdrew their services, protesting poor working conditions and long shifts.
Their action, which caught airport and union officials off guard, forced some flights to be delayed and others diverted. However, as the airport’s Corporate Communications Specialist Keith Goddard told reporters the airport remained open and a plan was in place “to accommodate flights coming into Barbados”.
Senior management staff filled the breach to ensure that some early morning LIAT, American Airlines and Caribbean Airlines flights out of the island were able to leave on time.
After representatives of the BWU, which is the bargaining agent for the majority of the workers, and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) held an hour of talks with airport management under the chairmanship of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of International Transport Irvine Best, the air traffic controllers were back on the job just after midday.
However, Paul insisted that the situation had not been resolved.
“Corrective action to deal with some of the issues has been promised to start tonight . . . so they are working. But this is contingent on some of this work being done tonight,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“They are going to be working on improving the air quality in the tower.”
Paul, who is also acting assistant general secretary of the BWU, complained that the working conditions for air traffic controllers were horrible and described the building as unclean.
The union official said no maintenance had been done on the tower and building, which had been in existence since 1970, even as the offices occupied by management were improved.
He said the staff had been battling for the past seven weeks, without success, to get management to address their concerns.
“Even the issue of provision of a simple commodity like water is an issue in that tower. We are working with the management to get these issues addressed . . . There are issues that have been outstanding for a number of years, including the provision of proper protective covering the glass to prevent glare which has been outstanding for more than three years resolved,” Paul said.
“So these persons have been working in conditions that are not the best. They are not adequate and in some cases the conditions are dire.”
The BWU official said the problems also had to do with a shortage of staff caused by attrition.
Further talks to address the issues will be held with Best on Friday at the airport.
“We are also going to have a meeting with him at the Ministry which would involve other sections of Government, within the coming week, to further address issues plaguing the members of the air traffic control [staff],” Paul added.
Senior Industrial Relations Officer at the NUPW Wayne Walrond echoed the sentiments of his BWU counterpart.
He said the union was also concerned that the department was down to 59 per cent of the full complement and the situation was placing stress on staff members who had been asked to work extended hours.