It appears that trouble is brewing at the Grantley Adams International Airport as workers say they are being “discriminated” against with their exclusion from the five per cent increase which Government granted to public servants last year.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this morning, one source close to the development explained that while the workers are under a statutory arrangement, to the best of their knowledge, all employees of Government-owned entities are entitled to the increase, yet they have been “unfairly omitted”.
Barbados TODAY understands that the workers have broached the issue with their bargaining agent, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) before, but it was the recent unrest at the UWI Cave Hill Campus over this same issue, which stoked the frustration of the airport workers. In fact, the source revealed that workers, including custodial staff, security and engineers, are considering industrial action.
“Government made the commitment to all public workers and all state-owned enterprises; nobody was excluded from the state-owned enterprises. The workers feel a sense of strong discrimination and are contemplating industrial action. The workers are angry and they have become even more irate after learning yesterday that there is a commitment to settle at the university,” the source said.
The workers’ spokesperson was referring to the averted strike action at the campus, a day before the new school year started, after the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) and university administration reached a settlement on the overdue pay increase as well as other issues.
Barbados contacted a top official at the NUPW, who revealed that he was aware of the workers’ concerns and that the union plans to address this matter in short order.
“We understand that workers have been expressing gross discontentment and the union would have gone to the negotiation table to address this matter of the five per cent in the past. We understand this morning that workers are really disenchanted and we will be addressing this situation very shortly. Traditionally, when Government gives an increase, they do not discriminate against state-owned enterprises. Workers at these SOEs were promised that they would not be any worse off than their counterparts in the public sector,” the union official said.
However, the union official made it clear that while they understand the frustration of their members, the negotiation process has not been exhausted.
“We are not there yet. I understand that the workers are contemplating this action, but I do not believe that we are there yet. There is still time to come to the negotiation table,” the NUPW official noted.
Barbados TODAY contacted CEO of the GAIA Inc, Neville Boxill, who was unavailable for comment at the time.
However, a credible source explained that GAIA Inc is not a statutory corporation but rather a company constituted under the Company’s Act, which happens to be owned by Government. In addition, it was revealed that airport workers have received several increases within the last ten years, during a period when public servants received no pay hikes. It was also noted that given the airport’s plans to privatise its operations, workers were already asked to “hold strain until that process is completed.”
“Within the last ten years, workers at the airport have received 21 per cent increase, during a period that the public service was not been given any. So, you can’t have a case where you are getting increases when government workers are not and then demanding increase when they are,” the source said.
Minister of Labour Colin Jordan, when contacted, said he was unaware of the workers’ concerns but promised to look into the matter.