All is well again at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) as protesting air traffic controllers end their sick-out and return to regular duty after causing delays to air travel in and out of the country.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy assured the travelling public today there was no need to fear any further undue delays and that “things are running smoothly” again.
The industrial action, which started Wednesday over what the disgruntled workers said were long-standing environmental problems, physical conditions and dissatisfaction with the style of air traffic management, ended overnight after their representative, the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) reached agreement with the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, the Department of Civil Aviation and GAIA.
“Progress has been made; there are some concerns that have been expressed by the air traffic controllers. We are working on those . . . we are working with their representative, the Barbados Workers Union; we are having the matters addressed. Different issues have been highlighted. A lot of them are not new, that is true, but we are getting them straightened out,” Sealy told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
The minister gave the assurance that while some of the repair work at the tower had to be scheduled, most of the other issues would be addressed immediately.
“Work is going on at the tower to rectify these problems that have been persisting for some time. Some of the problems have been new too. The concerns are being addressed. Right now things are functioning as normal. The work that is being done on the tower is being done in such a way that it does not affect the inbound and outbound flights,” added the Minister.
He said this made sense since there were few employees, or none at all, present at that time, stressing that the tower had to be vacant while some of the work was being done.
Sealy repeated several times that “these things are being dealt with” and that some of the work had to be scheduled “because of the nature of the work” but that systems were being put in place.
He said that because the country was entering the busy tourism season there may be some delay because safety had to be placed ahead of everything else.
Meantime, Deputy General Secretary of the BWU Dwaine Paul noted that while agreement had been reached, the situation needed to be monitored.
“All the controllers are back on the job. We had discussions that resulted in agreement which we would be monitoring for compliance,” Paul told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
The BWU official also said that discussions would continue with the parties over the next coming weeks.
“The issues that led to them [air traffic controllers] coming out [on a sick-out] at Grantley Adams International Airport, once again had to do. . . with the overall management and administration of the operations,” he added.
Paul also emphasized that the focus of talks going forward would be on the wider operations at the airport. including the two handling companies, the cargo facilities and security.
He said these matters had already been raised during the latest discussions.