Affected passengers returning to their respective hotels after their flights were cancelled.
Major ports impacted by industrial action
Fri, 03/25/2016 - 12:00am
IN a clear escalation of the tensions within the industrial relations climate in this country, the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) and the Bridgetown Port were effectively closed for business for the majority of the day yesterday as the ongoing dispute between the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) moved from protest action by the BWA workers to actions which impacted the key sectors of this island.
Less than 24 hours after the BWU indicated that it was not backing down in its dispute with the BWA, these ports of entry featured no movement in activity regarding people coming in or leaving the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Port was effectively closed to activity as workers gathered to listen to their BWA representatives.
The action at the airport, was as a result of air traffic controllers being off the job, for what was said to be them acting in solidarity with the BWA workers. The workers were expected to be back on the job at 6 p.m. last evening, but not before causing considerable disruptions to flight schedules in and out of Barbados ahead of the critical Easter weekend. The action also grounded the country’s CARIFTA team on their way to Grenada and when The Barbados Advocate visited the Airport yesterday, the team was seen just wandering around the facility, hoping to find a way to get to the Games.
The main board at the airport featured cancellations and even indicated that passengers should contact their airlines. The frustration was evident as many angry travelers were left helpless as many sought to take flights out of the country ahead of the Easter holidays. LIAT, informed its customers, from early, that the actions would impact their travel plans and later in the day, further stating that flights to Grenada, Antigua and other destinations were cancelled. LIAT also informed customers that they will have to handle all concerns related to their own “meals, transportation or hotel accommodation as the situation is beyond LIAT’s control. Passengers with onward connections are advised to contact the respective carriers.”
BWU General Secretary Toni Moore told the media on Wednesday afternoon that the union had reached “the last straw” because the BWA had failed to meet its March 10th deadline. She said, “March 15th has come and it has gone and eight days later on the March 23rd there has not been a single word from the management or board of the Barbados Water Authority. Not a single word, not a proposal nor an apology. Such arrogance and contempt for this union and workers we represent will not be tolerated.” Moore asserted, “The BWU family is bigger than the Barbados Water Authority and reminders of this are now necessary, but in the matter of the Barbados Water Authority workers after eight days out not any whimsical gesture for settlement would not fly.”
At that meeting, Moore stated that the time had come for a stance to be taken. “We are past that and a firm proposal, a meaningful proposal would have to be tabled first to deter us from any action that considers rationing up first within the public sector, then within the entire BWU, when and if that become necessary. So my address to you and if you go away with nothing else, I want you to go away with a commitment that says we will not be deterred. We will not be daunted because we are ever mindful of the mantra that an injury to one is an injury to all.”
The Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI) called for a speedy resolution of the matter also. “We are also aware of the further action taken in solidarity with the BWA workers by the various agencies of Government... It is important for there be cognisance of the national good taking into consideration Barbados’ reputation, the rights of the employees, the impact on business and the costs implications for those affected. BCCI looks forward to good industrial practices and clear communication between employees and employers.”
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, in a statement on the matter, argued that Government needed to be engaged in finding a solution. “These events with the BWA Strike and the consequential locking down of the Sea and Airport is another example of what happens because of the callous attitude to and the contempt of this Government for ordinary workers who simply do not score on the Government’s Richter scale. The workers’ interest are not their priority! The Government believes that they can put the workers’ concerns on a lay way plan to be dealt with either when Government gets around to it or when the workers are forced to bring the country to its knees to get the Government’s attention. This is NOT how Barbadians can go forward with confidence.”
The call was then made, by the Opposition Leader, that steps should be taken to address the matter. “Today is Cabinet. This meeting should not finish without the Prime Minister requiring a clear commitment on the part of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Water (who continue to spar over financial resources for the BWA) to provide the necessary funds. This will allow the BWA to meet with its workers and the Barbados Workers Union under the chairmanship of the Minister of Labour, tonight if necessary, with a credible proposal such that there may be hope of there being bargaining towards an urgent settlement.”
Reports late in the day revealed that the airport had reopened and that the CARIFTA team had made its way to Grenada.