Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Authority (BHTA) Sue Springer has called for a speedy resolution to the current industrial action affecting operations at the island’s ports of entry.
Weighing in on the matter during yesterday’s ceremony to welcome the inaugural JetBlue flight from Newark, New Jersey to Barbados, Springer described the action being spearheaded by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) as a “serious situation” which would affect the 1.5 billion dollar industry.
“Everybody needs to understand that tourism is the sector that is driving the economy and if we’re not bringing in the foreign exchange during this period of time, it does affect us in the long run,” she warned.
For more than a week now Immigration, customs and health environmental officers at both ports of entry have been on a go-slow as part of action to force the Government to reinstate NUPW President Akanni McDowall who was recently reverted from an acting senior position in the Ministry of Health.
On Friday, the union signalled plans to step up action this weekend after pay talks with the management of the Grantley Adams International Airport Inc (GAIA), which employs 400 airport workers, broke down.
Springer stressed that the action could not have come at a worst time given that the island was hosting events in celebration of its 50th anniversary of Independence and the start of the winter season.
“We’ve now got more airlift than I think we’ve had for many years so the opportunity for this season and for next year is very positive. However, if we are going to have a situation where people are going to go on strike or a go-slow, the experience of people coming in from the airport and departing from the airport will most definitely be a negative”.
The BHTA president also pointed out that the go-slow would also have a negative impact on cruise ships that were docked at the Bridgetown Port for the first time.
“They say that first impressions count and we don’t need to make these ships doubtful that they aren’t welcome here and they can’t work here because when you have the air-sea component it is very important that everything works efficiently because there is a short time frame to move over a lot of people so it is exceedingly worrying, said Springer.
She added, “I think that it is very unfortunate as well that this is occurring at the 50th anniversary when obviously this weekend and moving forward for the next week it’s obviously going to be very busy.”
Springer said she was hopeful that authorities could settle the issue but she stressed that a contingency plan must be put in place in the event that mediation talks fail.
“If a resolution isn’t found, then I think the authorities will have to look to find other methodologies to make sure that the two ports of entry are kept open; they are very essential services after all,” she stated.