With tensions rising among dissatisfied workers at the Grantley Adams International Airport over not being given the five per cent pay increase accorded to public workers last year, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has requested an urgent meeting with the airport management in an attempt to have the matter settled.
This morning, Deputy General Secretary of the NUPW Wayne Waldron revealed that his members were becoming increasingly restless and that both sides needed to get back to the bargaining table soon before things escalated.
“We made the request last week and we are anxiously waiting for a response. The workers are in a bad mood and they are at the stage where they feel that they will demonstrate how they feel. They are really being frustrated but I can’t tell you they are going to strike tomorrow or next week. What I can say is that they are at that breaking point,” said Waldron, confirming earlier reports by Barbados TODAY that the workers were considering industrial action.
Last month 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”. 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 privatize 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 given any. So, you can’t have a case where you are getting increases when government workers are not and then demanding the increase when they are,” the source said.
However, this morning Waldron contended that persons were conflating the two issues and in fact, any increases that the workers have received were monies owed them for a long time before.
“People don’t understand the history and apparently somebody is of the notion that they [GAIA workers] have gotten more than the public service. But they only got what was owed to them and because the airport was late in adjusting the amounts over the years, the impression is that they got something extra. It is simply a lagging process but somebody is not understanding and came up with this idea now that they don’t deserve the five per cent increase,” he said.
Waldron further argued that the GAIA administration is conveniently using the company argument, as over the years airport workers were never allowed to negotiate separately from Government workers.
“When we tried in the earlier years to negotiate separately from the public service, which would justify even higher increases, they always tell you that you can’t give the airport workers more than what the government workers were being offered, although it is a company. Now they want to change it and say they don’t want to deal with what the Government is offering. So they are moving the goal post all of the time. When the company is making a big profit, they don’t want to pay increases above Government and when things are now tight, they want to constrain the worker,” said the NUPW spokesman.
He further stressed, “They are discriminating against these poor airport workers. When you compare the salary of an engineer at the airport to one at the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW), the one at MTW is better paid. It is discrimination pure and simple.”