The threat of industrial action still hangs over the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA), with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) holding up figures presented in the 2011 Budget by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler as “evidence” that Government could afford to meet its pay demand.
Today, the two sides met for two hours behind closed doors but failed to reach a settlement after Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy told reporters on Monday that the 3.5 per cent salary increase that the union is demanding for GAIA staff was “null and void”.
He explained that the increase had been taken off the table at a meeting on December 28, 2010, chaired by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the decision subsequently confirmed in a letter by then NUPW General Secretary Dennis Clarke.
In any case, Sealy also said the agreement to pay the increase was dependent on if the economy grew during the negotiating period, arguing that the growth simply was not realized.
However, emerging from today’s meeting with GAIA management, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith told reporters her union had hard proof which showed otherwise, that it had provided to the airport’s authorities.
“We were able to produce the evidence to support our letter of 2011 . . . . We provided the budgetary financial statement of 2011 which showed that there had [been] an improvement in the growth in Barbados, 2.1 per cent. Page 21, you can check, you will see that we have the evidence,” Smith told reporters.
“So the notion that the Minister [Sealy] said that that letter was null and void, we are saying that his statement is null and void because we have the evidence,”
While suggesting that the ball was now in GAIA’s court, Smith explained that an escalation of industrial action would depend on management’s response to a letter which the union was preparing to dispatch to the company reiterating its pay demand.
She described today’s talks with the airport officials as “amicable”, saying “we would have revisited the 2011 proposal, and we will formalize it in a letter to the management”.
However, the union boss is still not ruling out a possible phase two of protest action by the unionized airport workers who staged a three-hour picket outside the airport last Friday.
She said it “would depend on the response to our correspondence which will be submitted in a day
Just yesterday, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo said she was keeping a close eye on the situation and stood ready to intervene if requested to do so.
However, retired NUPW General Secretary Dennis Clarke told Barbados TODAY he was not prepared to get involved in the dispute but was watching from the sidelines to see how the impasse played out.