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Fresh approach to pay row at airport

The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) Inc appear to be adopting a different approach to their row over a 3.5 per cent pay rise for 2011.

Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo has upheld the airport’s position that it did not owe the money, since the increase was taken off the table at a meeting with Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart in December 2010, a position Stuart repeated recently.

The NUPW, which has engineered work stoppages at the airport over the contentious demand, has publicly maintained it would continue to press for the increase.

However, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that both parties were engaged in “active negotiation” with a view to finding a satisfactory resolution.

“Mercifully I think good sense has prevailed on that [impasse with NUPW] and there is now an active negotiation . . . a fresh round with respect to what the GAIA Inc workers who are represented by the NUPW are looking forward to going forward. And that discussion obviously has to take place within the context of what is planned for the wider [public] service,” he said.

Sealy did not provide details of the talks, however, the NUPW appeared to have conceded defeat on the issue when General Secretary Roselyn Smith wrote GAIA demanding a four per cent pay rise for 2011.

In the letter dated March 11, 2016, from which NUPW President Akanni McDowall later distanced himself, Smith stated that “in light of rising utility costs, increased fuel costs, increased Value Added Tax and Land Tax, the addition of new taxes (Consolidated Tax and the Municipal Solid Waste Tax), increased costs of basic food items and the removal of many non-taxable allowances and tax exemptions, the National Council at its meeting of December 23, 2015 has given a mandate that the union negotiates for increased wages and salaries.”

Smith added that in an effort to balance the needs of its members in this difficult time while simultaneously giving support to economic recovery, the NUPW was asking for an increase of eight per cent for January-December 2012; four per cent for January-December 2013; four per cent for January-December 2014 and another four per cent for January-December 2015. In an amendment to her March 11, 2016 letter sent to Barrow three days later, Smith also revealed that her union was seeking an increase of four per cent for the period January to December 2011.

Today, Sealy acknowledged that GAIA Inc was a privately-run company and “can do its own thing,” it was still a part of the overall system. “And we can’t have GAIA Inc management team going off on a frolic and negotiating separately with the union. It just doesn’t make sense. We have to rationalize the whole process. We make much ado about the financial statement of GAIA Inc, but looking at

Sealy added that he was heartened by union leadership that was willing to engage in mature negotiations, insisting that wildcat strikes “and threats of wild cat action” did not help the situation.

“What we need is to sit down and have a dialogue and I insist on that. I am a firm believer in organized labour. I don’t accept that as an employer, you need to have an antagonistic relationship with the trade unions that represent the workers,” he said. (EJ)

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