On Friday, March 11, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) was locked in talks on a 3.5 per cent pay rise for 2011 for workers at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
However, even as it fought “tooth and nail” for that increase, Barbados TODAY has obtained correspondence which shows that the union had submitted another proposal on that day to GAIA Chief Executive Officer David Barrow, this time demanding a four per cent increase for the airport workers.
The letter is dated the same day that Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo ruled against the union in the dispute with the airport.
In its letter to Barrow, the union pointed out that the last salaries and wages agreement between the two parties ended on December 31, 2010.
“While the NUPW is mindful of the global economic downturn and its effect on the local economy, we are cognizant of the fact that many countries globally, particularly our [tourism] source markets [the USA, the UK and Canada] have been recovering steadily since 2013. In a few cases, recovery began even prior to this,” said the letter signed by General Secretary Roslyn Smith.
Noting that during the same period there had been a significant increase in the cost of living, the union identified rising utility costs; increased fuel costs; increased Value Added Tax and land tax; the addition of new taxes, such as the Consolidated Tax and the Municipal Solid Waste Tax; increased costs of basic food items and the removal of many non-taxable allowances and tax exemptions as contributors to a decline in the quality of life of the average worker.
“In light of the above, the National Council at its meeting of December 23, 2015 has given a mandate that the union negotiates for increased salaries and wages,” Smith wrote.
Arguing that it had to balance the needs of its members “in these difficult times” with giving support to Government’s economic recovery programme, the union proposed salary increases of eight per cent for January to December 2012; four per cent for 2013; a four per cent for 2014 and another four per cent rise for the period January to December 2015.
Smith gave GAIA the assurance that the union stood ready to meet and urged that the company moves swiftly to set a date to discuss the proposal.
In handing down her ruling earlier this moth, the Minister of Labour had called on the union, the workers and GAIA to work harmoniously while addressing outstanding matters.
However, NUPW President Akanni McDowall said at the time that the union would seek a mandate from its General Council on what action should be taken under the circumstances.