The island’s largest public sector trade union this afternoon said while it was willing to meet with Grantley Adams International Airport Inc (GAIA) under the chairmanship of Chief Labour Officer Vincent Burnett, it would not back down from its demand for the contentious 3.5 per cent salary increase for 2011.
“We have a case . . . and therefore we are going to stick to our guns that we have a case. So it’s up to the management, the board, the minister and all those persons who are involved to come to some conclusion and treat to the union’s request,” General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY following a 90-minute closed door meeting with approximately 100 airport workers.
Smith said the meeting, called to update the staff on the company’s move to refer the dispute to the Labour Department, was also informed that in spite of Burnett’s intervention, the ball was still in the airport’s court to finalize an agreement.
“The Labour Department is just a conciliatory operation and therefore, depending on what the management brings to the table, we would be in a position to decide whether or not we have reached and agreement or we have to take the matter to the next level,” the union leader warned, without saying what action it would take if the Chief Labour Officer’s efforts failed to produce a settlement.
Meantime, NUPW President Akanni McDowall reported that the workers regarded the decision to refer the dispute as stalling.
“The workers have also said to us that they recognize that this could be a delaying tactic . . . and they have said to us that if this process is not as fast as they would want, then the NUPW has the right to go ahead and do what is necessary to make the management of the airport uncomfortable,” McDowall said.
He cautioned that while the union would respect the industrial relations process, it would not be done to the detriment of the employees.
It was at this point that Smith disclosed that the union had heard from GAIA this morning with a view to confirming a date for the meeting.
“We expect a speedy process because it makes no sense after five years going another five years to have a result. I know the Labour Department is professional and NUPW is also professional. So we will meet and bring our positions to the table, as I said, to have a speedy but successful outcome,” added the NUPW boss.
The GAIA staff involved in the dispute include maintenance, custodians and engineers. Smith explained that Immigration and Customs were not part of the process because are Government employees.
Airport authorities have said the 3.5 per cent was taken off the table during a meeting in 2010 chaired by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and later confirmed in a letter signed by then NUPW General Secretary Dennis Clarke. (EJ)