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President of the Public Service Union, Elroy Boucher, speaking at the press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.
President of the Public Service Union, Elroy Boucher, speaking at the press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.
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The Public Service Union says that the workers it represents at Argyle International Airport will strike on a Monday, Wednesday or both this month, if the airport does not meet its demands to pay by April 12 monies owed to workers.

The union said it would not repeat its mistake of a few years ago when it called off planned industrial action the night before it was to take place.

“And we recognise and realise that our failure to take action then is what resulted in this particular dismissal behaviour, this dismissal attitude of the board and the management,” Elroy Boucher, the union’s president told a press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday. 

“That is why I’ve said, and speaking from the perspective of the workers, that the management of AIA should be under no illusion that if this matter is not settled that there will not be disruption,” Boucher said.

“There will be disruption. Make no mistake about it. That mistake would not be made again.”

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The airport owes its employees increments dating back to 2016. However, the workers have decided to forfeit the payment of the sums for 2016 to 2018.

The increment for 2019, which amounted to 1.5% of the workers’ salary, was paid in January 2023.

Therefore, the union said it expected the retroactive component for the years 2020, 2021, and 2022, amounting to some EC$40,000, to be paid.

The union said it has sent “numerous letters and held numerous meetings” with the management of the AIA for four years, but the situation remains unresolved.

Boucher said that once commenced, the industrial action will continue until “this grievously outstanding matter is settled” as the union is still paying a price for its decision to stand down.

“The workers, up to today, have held us accountable for such a decision, because they were not happy with it.

“They are of the view that, because we called off that action, that is why the AIA is behaving the way it is behaving,” Boucher said.

He said that a few years ago, the union decided to call off the planned industrial action after a conversation with the then chair of the airport’s board of directors, Ken Young.

The union also balanced “the responsibilities of the AIA nationally”.

Boucher said:

“We never got anything from calling off that action. We were given word that ‘we would find a solution’. There was none.

“So, we called off the action and got nothing in return; absolutely nothing. That is what made the workers so angry; because their situation remained the same.”

He said that the non-payment of the increments was just one of the “quite vexing” issues affecting the airport.

However, “all of the workers” including junior and senior aviation security officers, supervisors, plumbers and electricians are affected by the wage matter.

President confident about success of planned industrial action

Boucher said he was confident that the industrial action would be successful despite union-busting tactics employed by the government in the past.

“The guarantee is the workers’ word,” Boucher told the media. “And the fact that they were very unhappy with our failure to take action a few years back because they have said — they continue to blame us.”

Boucher said that when the union met with the workers, they reminded the executive that it was the union that backed down a few years ago, “putting the interest of the company first”.

Boucher said the union has told the workers that it has learnt its lesson.

“And they gave us the assurance that they will follow through,” Boucher said.

He said the group of workers that are mostly affected are “the high-talent workers, the experienced workers.

“These are the workers who are trained on the specific airlines. So, if you have a group of workers who are trained to operate Virgin Atlantic, and that group of workers are not on the job, then that operation cannot go on,” Boucher said.

“You can’t take a different group of workers who are not trained in a particular way, and have them operate on Virgin Atlantic. That much we have been told.

“… So, you can’t have a replacement crew that I have no training on the specific airline to go and operate that particular airline.”

Executive anticipates union-busting tactics

He said that the union has briefed the workers on the “usual” union-busting tactics.

“What normally happens in those cases is a call to party politics. So, you will hear that union leadership is political, something of that nature. ‘So don’t bother with them, because they only do this because of partisan politics. Maybe they’re on the other side, and they want to make the government look bad.’

“And we have made it clear to the workers that such an attempt will be made. But this matter is not a political matter in the sense of partisan politics,” Boucher said.

He said there is evidence that the union has been trying to resolve the matter for several years.

“So, there is nothing political about it… You can’t say this is reasonable. We’re not making demands for salary increases unreasonably. We’re just asking for what has already been earned, to be paid,” he said, adding that this is why the government might accuse the union leaders of being political.

“And I don’t think in this case that is going to fly. Many of these workers at the AIA are, I have no doubt, that they are possibly supporters of the ULP.

“And they probably love their party. But they recognise that what is happening here is unfair. And regardless of their love for party, their interest is what they have decided to pay attention to. And that is what the hope that we have, that they are going to stick to what they have committed themselves to unless there is a solution,” Boucher said.

One reply on “PSU restates commitment to industrial action at AIA”

  1. avincy999f6a0a1c says:

    Yes strike and show the government that the union and the workers have been waiting too long for their payments and you all are ready to take action.

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