The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is giving management of the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) Inc until Thursday to respond to its pay demand, following initial protest action last month.
NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith said this afternoon the union was still hopeful that there could be a meeting of minds on a 3.5 per cent salary increase, which the union is insisting was owed since 2011.
However, the airport’s management is equally adamant that the proposed hike had been taken off the negotiating table.
“We gave them until Thursday to respond to our letter, cause we want to get this matter resolved,” Smith told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
Phase one of protests on January 29 involved about 100 unionized airport workers, excluding customs, immigration and air traffic control and therefore did not have a crippling effect on GAIA’s operations.
Pressed to say what would be the next step if no response was forthcoming by the new deadline, the union leader replied: “I will have to wait until Thursday . . . we are taking it step by step.”
However, in a press statement issued at the weekend, GAIA appeared resolute in its stance that no pay increase would be given.
The statement noted that an agreement was reached between the NUPW and GAIA in October 2010 to increase wages and salaries by four per cent in 2010 and 3.5 per cent in 2011.
However, GAIA pointed out that at a subsequent meeting held on December 28, 2010, which was chaired by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, a decision was reached by Government, GAIA and the NUPW to grant the four per cent increase that year, but to scrap the proposed 3.5 per cent increase for the following year.
“At that meeting, a compromise was reached and the Prime Minister indicated that he would support the payment of a four per cent increase in 2010 but the proposed 3.5 per cent for 2011 must be taken off the table, i.e. there should be zero per cent increase in 2011,” the statement said.
“All three parties were agreed at the end of the meeting and there were no conditions attached to the removal of the 3.5 per cent in 2011,” the statement added.
The GAIA statement also made reference to a letter written by the NUPW to GAIA Inc on January 4, 2011 informing that the union had met with airport workers the previous day and had agreed to the Prime Minister’s request to accept the zero per cent salary increase in 2011.
“Included in the letter dated 4th January 2011, the Union stated its ‘desire’ to revisit the tripartite agreement to accept zero per cent in 2011. However, in a letter dated 12th June 2012 the NUPW acknowledged that the two-year agreement expired on 31st December 2011. In the same letter . . . the NUPW submitted proposals for a new collective agreement for 1st January 2012 to 31st December 2013, which was put in place without increases in salaries and wages,” the statement further explained.
According to GAIA, another letter was written by the NUPW on January 4, 2011, in which the union “agreed and accepted that there will be no increase for January 2011 given the economic situation in the country and the need for GAIA employees to make a similar sacrifice as requested by the Government, of the public and private sector”.
The airport’s management also said the letter contained a unilateral position taken by the union that “should the economy improve between now and June 2011, the first half of the year, this union would wish to revisit the moratorium placed on year 2011 increases.
“[This position] did not form part of the agreement and therefore placed no other party under any obligation to honour it. Yet this is the lynchpin of the current demand by the NUPW,” GAIA said.
It also expressed concern that based on the above, “the NUPW appears undeterred and has shown no intention to withdraw the threat of industrial unrest.
“We do not agree with this course of action and hold firm that any decision made between GAIA Inc and the NUPW must take into account the national interest,” the statement added.