LPIA: 75% of Airport Authority staff return

The Lynden Pindling International Airport. (File photo)

The Lynden Pindling International Airport. (File photo)



Tribune Business Reporters

Some 75 percent of Airport Authority staff were yesterday said to have returned to work at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) following Monday’s strike action that the Supreme Court deemed illegal.

Peter Rutherford, the agency’s acting general manager, also told Tribune Business that “92 percent of the workers on the Family Islands” have also resumed regular work schedules.

This is near full staffing on regular days, and LPIA was said to be “running smoothly” now with no long passenger queues to get through security and baggage screening. This represents an improvement on the 60 percent of Family Island staff who reported for work on Tuesday, while the figure for Nassau was just  20 percent.

Mr Rutherford added: “This is near to 100 percent. We have said that the staff are going to come back to work in accordance with the injunction that deemed it to be an illegal strike. We continue to watch and analyse the staff complements several times throughout the day during peak times so that we can be ahead of any action that can work against us and the airport’s operation.” 

Meanwhile, Kimsley Ferguson, the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) president, whose members initiated the industrial action, told Tribune Business he was due to meet Prime Minister Philip Davis QC this coming weekend to address all the union’s concerns - not just those with the Airport Authority, which appear to be moving towards resolution.

“The Prime Minister committed to paying the outstanding monies, the retroactive monies, to the Family Island officers. He would have called me yesterday [Tuesday] morning. He and I spoke, and he committed verbally to getting it done. We received a communication in that regard, and are very grateful for that,” Mr Ferguson disclosed of the Airport Authority, adding that Mr Davis is set “to meet with me over the course of this weekend to address the additional concerns we have”.

Besides the Airport Authority, this includes issues the BPSU has relating to its members in both the civil service and at the Public Hospitals Authority. “We’re going to seek to get a resolution on those,” Mr Ferguson said. “The BPSU has issues that have been very, very long-standing in nature.

“It is our desire to work along with the Government of The Bahamas, but when the union has exhausted every protocol there is, knocked on every door there is, and nobody seems to be hearing the squeak on the door, with a view to purring oil on it to stop the squeak......”

The Supreme Court on Monday night ordered the Airport Authority workers to return to work, and issued an injunction barring further action on the basis it was illegal as the dispute has already been referred to the Industrial Tribunal. Mr Ferguson, though, said neither himself, the union nor its attorney have been served with the relevant papers.

“The union has not been served with anything of that nature,” he said. ‘I’m not aware of that. Nothing. I haven’t received anything and neither has the union’s attorney.” 

While the Government and its Airport Authority had moved to put contingency plans in place, having received advance warning of impending industrial actions, lengthy passenger queues and congestion still resulted at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) on Monday due to the absence of regular security screening personnel.

And, while not confirmed, it appears that the strike was timed to cause maximum damage since it coincided with a US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) audit of LPIA’s security systems. The TSA overseas facilities such as the US pre-clearance section at LPIA, the major aviation gateway to The Bahamas for stopover visitors and locals/residents alike.

Chester Cooper, deputy prime minister, said on Tuesday of the economic and tourism fall-out: “I think the economic impact was significant to some of our stakeholders, who may have had to stand in the gap to facilitate some of the passengers who may have been stranded as a result of missing their flights etc…

“We have been working along with the major hotels to ensure that we smooth-in the process for all of the people impacted. We’ve been talking with the airlines to ensure that the persons who missed their flights yesterday are properly facilitated today [Tuesday]. The Airport Authority has identified the people who missed their flights and promised them expedited processing through security today.”

The deputy prime minister continued: “The Ministry of Tourism did all we could to help to communicate and to help to facilitate a few passengers who remained at the end of the night, and we did so because it was the right thing to do.

“There are many of the passengers from Delta aAirlines who missed their flight during peak periods. They have been able to be rebooked so that process is being managed, and Bahamasair yesterday ran mostly on time, only with a small number of persons missing flights, and therefore the matter was delayed but genuinely systematic.

“The wait time perhaps increased by an hour during the peak period as you saw the long lines. But we were able to work through those lines systematically. During the morning period, it flowed but during the peak time between 10 (am) and about 2(pm), it did become unacceptable.”

While the total damage to The Bahamas’ tourism product has not yet been determined, “many” people missed their flights while inbound tourists may have been discouraged from coming. “We do know that we are committed to a resolution. We want to move forward in harmony with workers,” Mr Cooper said.

“We are a government administration that’s labour friendly. We consistently say that the reality is that my mission as the minister responsible for aviation is to ensure a state of normalcy, and to say to the workers that we will guarantee that they will receive whatever they are legitimately entitled to receive.”


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