The cherry on top of the ice cream!
That’s how shop steward David Durant today hailed yesterday’s agreement between the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) Inc that guarantees some 400 members of the NUPW’s airport division a seven per cent pay increase over three years.
Barbados TODAY last night broke the news of the much-anticipated pay deal, which covers the 2015-2017 contract period, and also brings to an end a year-long, highly-charged bargaining process that at times threatened the very operations of the island’s lone airport.
However, it looks like airport workers, who are to start receiving back pay as early as this week, will be in for a lot more than a happy Christmas this year, since the agreement also guarantees them a second wage hike, with public service salary negotiations set to begin in earnest at the start of the New Year.
Agreeing with his union colleague that this would be the proverbial “ice-cream” on top of the seven per cent pay rise, a delighted NUPW President Akanni McDowall said the union really could not have asked for more.
“We are claiming a resounding victory in this matter. We could not have hoped for a better conclusion,” McDowall told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
Following a meeting with the airport employees at the airport this morning, the NUPW president said the agreement was fully ratified by the workers, who are pleased with the outcome of the pay talks.
McDowall also thanked the workers for standing with the union on the matter, while suggesting that it might not have been forthcoming had the union not decided to apply pressure on Government.
“Sometimes without force you would not achieve what you would like to achieve.
“Unfortunately we had to resort to force in this situation in order to achieve a salary increase, but it is the hope of the union that going forward, that we will be able to resolve these matters as amicably as possible and we will be able to negotiate without taking industrial action,” he said.
The union was initially asking for a 16 per cent increase for workers at GAIA Inc. However, this was rejected outright by the Freundel Stuart administration, which had initially refused to consider a pay increase for the airport workers outside of that under contemplation for the public service as a whole.
However, Government quickly changed its tune after the union walked out of the airport pay talks back in November and immediately embarked on a worrying picket.
McDowall suggested today that at the end of the day the airport employees might actually be better off financially, given that the union is currently demanding a 23 per cent across the board increase for the island’s 20,000 plus public servants.
“If you add 23 per cent and seven it means that the workers will get 30 per cent, but of course, we still have to negotiate the public service increase,” he told Barbados TODAY, in what appears to be an admission that the union was willing to lower its demand.
The union president also defended the proposed double pay rise for the GAIA workers saying, “What we would have argued from the very beginning is that the salary increase the airport workers should receive should be based on the profits that the airport would have made.”
He also pointed out that the airport workers had not enjoyed a salary increase since 2011.
“It may seem like a lot, but if you go back to 2011 and come all the way up to 2017, once you divide up the percentage that we were originally asking for which is 16 per cent by those number of years then you would realize that the percentage isn’t really that big,” he told Barbados TODAY.