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|By Melissa Wong- The threat of industrial action at the Argyle International Airport (AIA) in St Vincent and the Grenadines looms due to a number of concerns affecting AIA staff, chief among them, the issue of sick leave and the slow pace of negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement submitted since the year 2020.
In a news conference Tuesday, President of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Public Service Union, (PSU) Elroy Boucher, said AIA staff have been holding back from taking industrial action, but they are impatient.
Boucher said on August 29, 2022, the Union should commence negotiations on the collective bargaining agreement. He said if their various issues are not addressed there will be industrial action at the Argyle International Airport, that is, the airport will be shut down at certain points in time and the public will be affected.
The union president explained that taking industrial action is always a last resort, noting the PSU has been patient to the extent that the workers themselves think the union was not doing enough on their behalf.
He said AIA workers wanted to take industrial action a long time ago but were asked to be patient with the union as it wanted to give the new Chairman of the Board of Directors enough time to address their problems.
“If they are not addressed to our satisfaction, we will call industrial action and shut down the airport on certain days.”
Boucher told the media he wanted to get all the issues out there so that when the time comes the public will understand that the issues of workers have been pending for a number of years.
He explained what those issues are. Giving some background, the Argyle International Airport has been in operation for five years now and the PSU is recognised as the body representing workers since 2019.
On September 18, 2020, Boucher said the PSU submitted a collective bargaining agreement for negotiation on behalf of the workers at AIA, however, over two years have passed and the AIA has not responded favourably to the call to negotiate.
The PSU union leader said since 2017 a number of issues affecting workers were brought to the attention of management. He claims the PSU has experienced resistance from the management of AIA.
One of the major issues the union has tried to address is the issue of sick leave and COVID-19. The PSU said workers only have 14 days sick leave and COVID leave is being taken out of this leaving them with little to no sick days left, causing persons to now lose vacation days.
The PSU said there are also concerns with compassionate leave. The AIA manual says three days of compassionate leave is to be granted, however, the union discovered there’s a demand that if there is a death in the family, a death certificate has to be produced. He expressed concern about the lack of trust being exhibited.
Boucher said there are issues with working conditions related to health and safety as well as the compensation package of AIA workers, who he said have not received an increase since the operation of the international airport began.
There are also concerns about the reclassification of the job of aviation security.
Boucher said there are a lot of issues occurring and the union has been patient with management because the airport at the time was new and they wanted to give time for the teething problems to be dealt with.
The PSU head said they did not want to create any major issues, but that time has since passed.