The threat of industrial action is hanging over the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) once again.
However, this time it is the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) which is serving notice of likely protests to management at the island’s lone airport.
Following a meeting this week with workers at GAIA, the BWU’s Deputy General Secretary Dwaine Paul reported that “all is definitely not well” at the airport.
In fact, he told Barbados TODAY there was “a myriad of issues” relating to the treatment of workers and their conditions of service that needed to be urgently rectified.
Paul however pointed out that the problems were not only with Government, but also private enterprises within the confines of GAIA.
“Some of the issues at the airport have gone on far too long but because the travelling public does not see them, it appears to us that the management feels they do not have to address them,” he complained, while of voicing concerns about exploitation.
He said the union was particularly concerned that young people who were employed at GAIA were being paid rates and were working shifts that “make no sense to anybody that is interested in having a living wage or a decent wage.
“So there are a myriad of problems. And as we continue to engage with our stakeholders, we are unearthing issues and will use any means necessary and available to us to have them addressed,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“The airport must be fixed and must be changed,” Paul added.
The union official also accused GAIA’s management of showing blatant disregard for workers and their conditions of employment. He further pointed out that even though Cabinet and Government were aware of the situation, to date no corrective action had been taken.
However, emphasizing that it would not be business as usual at GAIA until the interests of the workers who keep it going were addressed, Paul said there was need for “concrete plans with timelines.
“And this is not air traffic only,” he warned, following recent industrial action by members of that group that resulted in the closure of the airport for several hours.
That action, in solidarity with striking water workers, came at a significant cost to members of the travelling public, coming as it did at the height of the busy Easter period.
Just last week, fire officers based at GAIA also reported sick, resulting in the temporary closure of the airport and again disrupting flights.
And with industrial relations currently strained between the airport and the National Union of Public Workers, which has been demanding a 3.5 per cent pay increase for its members, the BWU is also signalling to the GAIA management that enough is enough.
Asked by Barbados TODAY how long his union was prepared to wait to have these issues resolved, Paul said quite matter-of-factly: “We are not going to be waiting on the entities at the airport who are aware of the situation. Time has run out.
“These problems have gone on for far too long. Our patience has now run out as it relates to the airport and issues at the airport”, he emphasized, adding, “We cannot and will not allow workers to continue to be exploited and mistreated.
“Workers must be treated fairly,” he stressed, while telling Barbados TODAY to “stay tuned” for the union’s next move.
The BWU official also said the union was not ruling out any options at this time.
“All the options that are available to us are on the table,” he said, adding, “there are people who are paid a significant amount of money to manage that facility and are doing a poor job.”
While noting that further meetings had been scheduled with GAIA to address the outstanding issues, Paul further warned that the airport needed to service visitors as well as staff. (EJ)