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Clarke: Leave me out of airport dispute

Retired General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Dennis Clarke is staying clear of the current pay dispute between the union and Grantley Adams International Airport Inc (GAIA).

“I ain’t getting involved in it,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY this afternoon when asked to weigh in on the impasse, which has its genesis in an agreement reached when he was still in charge of the NUPW.

When pressed to comment on the issue Clarke said: “I ain’t getting involved in it yuh hear. I see there is a fellow in the newspaper talking, saying the workers should sue the union or giving the impression the increase [contentious 3.5 per cent] should be paid by the union . . . boy, I aint getting involved in it. I just watching how it play out.”

Just yesterday, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy praised Clarke for his handling of the pay negotiations back in 2010.

The minister argued that the 3.5 per cent the workers were claiming was null and void since it was taken off the table at a meeting on December 28, 2010 chaired by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, and subsequently confirmed in a letter signed by Clarke in January 2011.

Sealy also castigated the current leadership of the union over its handling of the row, stating that it had “jumped into protest action” without any basis in fact.

“So here it is five years later . . . because of a few people presumably looking for a rock to stand on, they want to resurrect an issue that an intelligent general secretary that can write in a manner that you understand, actually signed a letter stating that they were taking the 3.5 per cent off the table. So it doesn’t really make sense,” During a two-hour news conference on the performance of the tourism sector in 2015 and projections for this year, Sealy also dismissed claims by the union that its members at the airport did not receive wage increases that were commensurate with what Government workers got in 2008 to 2010, contending that while public servants received a ten per cent rise for that period, GAIA workers received 14 per cent, comprising a seven per cent rise in the first year, three per cent in the second year and four per cent in the third year.

However, the NUPW, which staged a three-hour strike on Friday to press GAIA to pay the contested 3.5 per cent wage hike for 2011 and has threatened to intensify industrial action if its demands are not met, contends that the company has been profitable over the last five years and can pay the disputed increase.

Union President Akanni McDowall told Barbados TODAY yesterday airport authorities would meet with the workers’ representatives tomorrow to try to resolve the dispute. (EJ)

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