Air passengers into and out of Barbados could face lengthy delays tomorrow as the island’s largest public sector trade union carries out its strike threat.
Having failed to receive a favourable response from the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) to its demand for payment of overdue wage increases, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) will call out some 200 airport workers for a “few” hours.
Following a meeting with the employees yesterday afternoon, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith told journalist the union had given GAIA 24 hours to respond favourably to its demand to settle outstanding increases of 3.5 per cent dating back to 2010.
Official sources told Barbados TODAY GAIA responded that it would stick to its position that it did not owe the monies.
Barbados TODAY understands that the disgruntled employees will gather in the airport’s car park before noon in what is expected to be the first phase of industrial action. Another 200 or so staff who are represented by the Barbados Workers Union are likely to show solidarity “in some practical way”, official sources said.
It is anticipated that the organized protest involving all categories of workers, with the exception of customs, immigration and air traffic control, will disrupt operations at the airport.
The sources have said that the industrial action could escalate if GAIA refuses to budge.
Barbados TODAY has obtained a copy of a letter dated January 4, 2011, signed by then NUPW General Secretary
As part of the agreement, the two sides settled on a four per cent rise for 2010 and the union would forego the previously agreed 3.5 per cent increase for 2011.
“Consequent upon a meeting held on Tuesday 28 December 2010 between the Honourable Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister and this Union, and a subsequent meeting held on January 3, 2011 between the GAIA Inc workers and this Union, it was agreed to accept an adjustment of salaries and wages of four per cent for all GAIA Inc employees with effect from 1 January 2010.
“It was agreed and accepted that there will be no increase for January 2011 given the economic situation in the country and the need for GAIA Inc employees to make a similar sacrifice as requested by the Government of the public and private sector. Please note that all other conditions of service agreed to will be implemented as per the agreement,” Clarke wrote to the GAIA’s Chief Executive Officer David Barrow.
However, he indicated that should the economy improve “between now and June 2011”, the union would want to revisit the moratorium placed on the 2011 increases.
It was Clarke’s letter that Barrow quoted in correspondence to the union dated January 18, 2016, when he insisted that the matter had already been settled.
“A compromise position was reached at that meeting [with the Prime Minister] in which the Prime Minister indicated that he would advise his Cabinet that approval can be granted for the four per cent increase in 2010 and that the 3.5 per cent increase for 2011 would be taken off the table,” the GAIA CEO wrote.
“The NUPW consequently advised GAIA Inc by letter dated 4th January 2011, that it had held a meeting with its membership on 3rd January 2011, where the workers agreed to accept an increase of four per cent in 2010 and zero per cent in 2011, as requested by the Government.”
However, the NUPW has pointed to the part of the letter that stated it would revisit the 2011 freeze should the economy improve.
“Based on the fact that the Company made profits over the last five years it proves the Union is correct in seeking the outstanding salary increases for staff,” Smith wrote in her January 25 reply to Barrow.
‘The bottom line is that the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) Inc owes the staff 3.5 per cent in salary.”
Airport authorities have refused to comment on the impasse or on plans in place to mitigate the impact of tomorrow’s strike. Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy was unavailable for comment today, however, last evening he had told Barbados TODAY he would seek to address the issue.