A prolonged and sometimes bitter wages dispute between airport workers and Grantley Adams International Airport Inc (GAIA) could finally be over by the end of next month.
Workers emerged all smiles after a near three-hour “very cordial and amicable” meeting with the top brass of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and GAIA management Thursday at which they discussed the proposed salary increases.
As recently as June this year, workers were up in arms over non-payment of retroactive wage increases dating back to 2011. However, according to NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith, at the conclusion of the meeting those in attendance felt a resolution was in sight.
“We had a very cordial and amicable meeting and we were discussing the salaries proposal for the workers here at GAIA. We are comfortable with the stage that we are at and we await the management to go back to the board and get back to us shortly. Then we would go back to the workers and hopefully we can wrap it up before the end of November,” said Smith.
This position represented a significant shift in the mood of the union, which was on the brink of calling for a shutdown of the airport three months ago.
“Yes, the process was a bit lengthy in terms of how we started out in August and we were very accommodating when we were asked to wait for the budgetary proposal in August. We had a start date of September 7, but then things became a little bit complacent. So they have adhered to our 20th date [today] and we are satisfied with what transpired here this afternoon,” Smith said, without divulging details of the tabled proposal.
The NUPW, which represents half of the approximately 400 airport workers, was engaged in a rancourous battle with GAIA over a disputed 3.5 per cent hike for 2011, which the airport insisted had been 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.
However, in an apparent change of tactic, Smith had written to GAIA Chief Executive Officer David Barrow demanding a four per cent pay rise for 2011.
In the letter dated March 11, 2016, the union boss had stated that “in light of rising utility costs, increased fuel costs, increased Value Added Tax and Land Tax, the addition of new taxes [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, the National Council at its meeting of December 23, 2015 has given a mandate that the union negotiates for increased wages and salaries.”
Smith added then that in an effort to balance the needs of its members in difficult times while simultaneously giving support to economic recovery, the NUPW was asking for an increase of eight per cent for January-December 2012; four per cent for January-December 2013; four per cent for January-December 2014 and another four per cent for January-December 2015.
In an amendment to March 11, 2016 letter, which was sent to Barrow three days later, Smith had also revealed that her union, was seeking an increase of four per cent for the period January to December 2011.
That prompted NUPW President Akanni McDowall to distance himself from the demand, claiming at the time that the salary proposals had not been sanctioned by the General Council of the NUPW.