Minister of Labour eyeing airport impasse

Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo is keeping a close eye on the industrial strain between the Grantley Adams International Airport Inc (GAIA) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which has come about as a result of a pay dispute.

And while Byer-Suckoo does not expect the issue to escalate to the level at which she would be required to intervene, she said she was paying close attention and was ready should she be needed.

Last Friday, the NUPW staged a three-hour strike to press the GAIA to pay a contested 3.5 per cent wage hike for 2011 and has threatened to intensity industrial action if its demands were not met.

The union is contending that the company has been profitable over the last five years and therefore could pay the disputed increase.

However, officials, including the Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy, have slammed the union for its handling of the matter, saying the NUPW failed to respond to a letter sent to it by the management of GAIA last Thursday, choosing instead to stage its protest the following day.

Sealy described the action by over 100 unionized workers at the airport as immoral, wild and absurd.

While not wanting to say too much on the matter at this stage, Byer-Suckoo acknowledged that in some instances industrial disputes ended up before her office even when she was not expecting them to.

“I never expect any of them to get to me. I like when folks can deal with this at the domestic level and it doesn’t have to get to me,” the Minister of Labour said.

“But I keep my ears opened and to the ground because you never know . . . . Sometimes things that reach me, reach me on the slightest point. They seem to have gotten most things worked out and then the slightest point they disagree on and then it goes through the Chief Labour Officer and all the way up to me. So I never expect them to get to me but I am always prepared in the event that they do,” she added.

Stating that she heard the statements coming from the Minister of International Transport, as well as the NUPW’s President Akanni McDowall and General Secretary Roslyn Smith, Byer-Suckoo said she expected more discussion on the matter.

“I did hear Minister Sealy invite the others to have discussion because that is where it is going to come down to,” said Byer-Suckoo.

“It comes down to being able to talk and understanding if there is indeed a difference of the interpretation of what has gone on before. Nothing happens before dialogue. Dialogue first. And that is all I am going to say because sometimes these things end up before me. So right now I am not on either side. I am just monitoring from a distance,” she added. (MM)

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