By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AIRPORT operations in both New Providence and the Family Islands could be seriously impacted today, as Bahamas Airport Authority workers intend to take industrial action, The Tribune was told.
While it is unclear the extent to which the workers will act, the decision comes as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was expected to conduct an audit in the country today, this newspaper understands.
Bahamas Public Services Union president Kimsley Ferguson, who represents the Bahamas Airport Authority workers, would not confirm any industrial action, but said there were too many outstanding issues and not enough movement to resolve them.
He spoke after the Bahamas Airport Authority said it had mobilised contingency plans to ensure that operations run smoothly at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) and other Family Island airports in the event workers participate in industrial action.
“The Bahamas Airport Authority is aware of potential industrial unrest that may impact operations at Lynden Pindling International Airport and other Family Island airports,” the agency said in a statement yesterday.
“Contingency plans have been mobilized to ensure minimal, if any disruption and convenience to both our international and domestic travellers.”
“The travel and general public should be further assured of all efforts to work together in industrial harmony with the relevant stakeholders, as we continue to provide safe, reliable and efficient services to meet the needs of users and operators.”
For his part, Mr Ferguson said, funding for the Family Islands and a new industrial agreement were at the heart of their grievances.
“We have some concerns about money, industrial agreement and funding for the Family Islands. The prime minister himself carried the paper into the Cabinet office to ensure that the adjustment was made sometime in December. However, the retroactive money somewhere in the thousands was never paid.
“Our agreement is set to expire next year. The dates in the agreement for staff at the Airport Authority needed to be changed and the entire industrial agreement had to be sent in again due to it expiring due to the length of time taken completing negotiations.
“We have gotten no word on when the agreement would be signed. No one has reached out to the union. I would have reached out to an official of the airport authority who declined my call.
“I was told that the government allotted some $10m for the industrial agreement to be addressed however we later found out that that was not so and that they did not receive it.
“We are very concerned and there are too many outstanding issues.”
“We are just fed up. Nobody is saying nothing.”
“The minister said he doesn’t negotiate with the union in the press but someone needs to tell him to answer his phone when the union is calling.”
Airport authority employees have threatened to take industrial action to protest outstanding payments, an expired industrial agreement and other unresolved workplace grievances.
Earlier this year, the ministry released a statement on workers’ outstanding pay concerns, saying the government had agreed to pay all money owed to Airport Authority employees over a six-month period starting in the March pay period.
However, the funds have not yet been paid, according to airport workers.
“We were advised by the airport authority human resources director that the monies would have been paid in installments over a six-month period. We have now been advised that they no longer have that money,” Mr Ferguson said during a press conference last week.
Responding to worker’s concerns last week, Tourism, Investments and Aviation Minister Chester Cooper assured that all issues will be addressed and committed the Davis administration to living up to its obligations.
“Let me say that the government takes labour relationships very seriously,” he said. “We consider ourselves a friend of labour and a friend of workers. There is an agreed industrial agreement between the airport authority and the unions.
“The government will honour the commitments of the agreement. We find it concerning that this agreement has been in place since 2018 and we have already committed the funding for the payments due under the agreement.”
Mr Cooper added: “We’ve come a long way in this process over the period of nine months. We will continue to press forward and talking openly with the union and the Cabinet has approved the appropriate funding to honour the agreements with the union and the ministry of finance are working out the logistics.”
“I am satisfied that the government is doing all within its power to live up to the obligations laid out in the agreement.”