PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party (PLP) chairman Bradley Roberts has accused Dr Hubert Minnis of appearing to condone the "unwarranted and unlawful" industrial action which caused flight cancellations and lengthy delays at the Lynden Pindling International Airport as travellers were trying to get away for the Easter holidays.
Mr Roberts derided the Free National Movement leader's comments as "weak, political opportunism" after a 'sick out' protest by air traffic controllers on Thursday had disrupted operations at the airport. Dr Minnis claimed that his party, if elected on May 10, would honour agreements after criticising the Christie Administration for not paying government employees what they are owed on time.
The PLP chairman called for "cooler heads to prevail" and for a swift resolution to the "unlawful" act by the union employees.
The Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union staged the surprise action over a number of outstanding matters currently subject of discussion with the Ministries of Transport and Labour, according to Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin. They range from the frequency of the shuttle service from the security checkpoint to the Tower to the payment of outstanding holiday pay and other money matters, she said.
On Thursday morning, on one of the busiest days for travel in the year, the morning shift of employees did not arrive at work. At least three American Airlines flights were cancelled and there were lengthy delays to domestic and international flights.
On Friday night Mr Roberts called Dr Minnis' comments on the issue by FNM leader "reckless and irresponsible".
"He apparently condones the unwarranted and unlawful industrial actions taken by some Air Traffic Controllers that left Bahamians stranded in airports, led to the cancellation of flights and the loss of revenue and other economic opportunities for Bahamians," Mr Roberts said in a statement.
"Further, these actions, condoned by Hubert Minnis, hurt the international reputation of The Bahamas and we all lose; there are no winners.
"The PLP calls for cooler heads to prevail and for all sides to put the welfare of the country first. Further, aviation operations of this type is an essential service and the integrity of this service should never be compromised.
"I am advised that some of the outstanding issues and subsequent demands predate the current administration and require an audit to compile the requisite data on which the Government can act. This government has always acted in good faith in addressing labour issues; this administration did so in resolving longstanding financial issues with the public school teachers, Customs, Immigration and we will do the same with the Air Traffic Controllers.
"These chronic press releases by Minnis and acts of weak political opportunism are unseemly as politics become inappropriate and irrelevant in these circumstances. Minnis should set aside the vitriol, the political posturing and grandstanding, the carpet bagging, the bluster and the heavily scripted commentary fed to him by his public relations consultants and consider his country and its citizens first.
"Every day when he pokes his head from behind the curtains he confirms he has no genuine individual vision or intrinsic activated plan for advancing the cause of a powerful Bahamian people.
"Minnis should know that the law provides for the settlement of disputes. He should be advocating for a lawful resolution to disputes - that is what responsible leadership will do. He is instead encouraging mayhem through the ad hoc withdrawal of essential services to the detriment of the Bahamian people. But then again the Bahamian people already know he is a political opportunist in heat.
"The PLP again calls for a swift and well-reasoned resolution to this unlawful act in the public interest because it is only through the legal and good faith settlement of disputes that we can move all Bahamians forward together."