NUPW not backing down in airport row
Not even the approaching Independence Day or the visit of Britain’s Prince Harry will stop the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) from pressing ahead with industrial action at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) over a wages hike for airport workers.
A go-slow at the country’s ports of entry in support of NUPW President Akanni McDowall, whose reversion to an entry level post in the public service has angered the union, has given way to sporadic stoppages of labour by engineers and custodians, who have been picketing since last week.
The workers are upset that an apparent agreement between their representative and airport management for a pay rise was vetoed by Government.
Monday evening, while insisting that the protest would continue, a union official told Barbados TODAY the tactics would change.
The official did not give details, but was quick to point out that the union would not be embarking on a full-fledged strike.
“Other action would be employed during the next few days,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It was not immediately clear if the protest would impact Prince Harry’s visit here for the 50th anniversary celebrations, or whether workers other than custodians and engineers would be asked to join the industrial action.
Earlier, Interim President of the Unity Workers Union (UWU) Alvin Hall, who led Monday’s march, told Barbados TODAY he wanted other workers to put aside any fear of victimization that they might have and join the protest.
“We are hoping for more numbers; there are persons in the airport who want to enjoy salary increase too, they want it, but they are afraid to come out and let their voices be heard; and sometimes people are victimized for fighting for a just cause,” Hall said.
Some of the 400 unionized workers employed by GAIA Inc have been picketing outside the airport terminal over the past week in an attempt to force a return to the negotiation table.
The NUPW had demanded a 16 per cent hike, with GAIA Inc countering with 15.5 per cent, an offer the union was said to have been prepared to accept.
However, when the two sides last met about a week ago, the union delegation reportedly walked out of the meeting after airport management informed them that Cabinet had rejected both proposals and had ordered instead that the workers be offered whatever deal was agreed later for public servants.
NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith said at the time employees within various sections of the airport, including the custodians and engineers, would begin a work to rule that would continue until it was decided if the industrial action would be stepped up.
She said then the union had been “negotiating in good faith”, while Government was “negotiating in bad faith”.
One of the workers, David Durant, had also said that negotiations had been ongoing for some time, and it was unfair that Government wanted to tie the GAIA staff to the overall public service negotiations.