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Minister Benn sacks Air Traffic Controllers

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Minister Benn sacks Air Traffic Controllers

Unread post by bimjim » Fri Feb 06, 2009

http://www.kaieteurnews.com/2009/02/05/ ... ntrollers/

Minister Benn sacks Air Traffic Controllers
- vacancies to be advertised regionally
February 5, 2009 | By knews

Minister of Public Works and Transport, Robeson Benn, yesterday made good on his promise to terminate Air Traffic Controllers of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport if they did not return to normal operation by last Tuesday.

Yesterday letters of termination were dispatched to the 15 employees who had earlier in the day picketed the office of the Minister to further highlight their need for an increase in their wages and salaries, which has been the main basis for the strike which commenced six days earlier. The picketing workers were led by Patrick Yarde, President of the Guyana Public Service Union, which has aligned with the workers.

The Minister, at a press conference on Tuesday, had declared that “we view the circumstances in which we are and the way in which it was done that workers have walked off the job. We have issued letters to the individual workers where we are identifying that since they have not turned out to work, and if they do not turn out to work today (Tuesday), they would have voluntarily separated themselves from the GCCA.”

And since they did not return to work as was advised by the Minister, the letters of termination were issued. This newspaper has also learnt that an advertisement for the positions of Air Traffic Controllers is being broadcast regionally.

But according to Yarde, the move to import expertise only serves to signal that the Minister is prepared to expend some 20 times what the Air Traffic Controllers were asking for, thus clarifying that the non-payment of the workers is not rooted in the unavailability of money.

Minister Benn at his Tuesday press conference had cited the urgency of repairs to the Air Traffic Control Tower as the main factor preventing the workers from benefiting from an increased pay package at the moment.

According to the Minister, there were complaints that “the Control Tower was decrepit, that conditions were bad, that they could not get water, that the toilets were not working, and that the area was noisy and uncomfortable.”

“I myself went there since I became Minister and I was very concerned about the condition of the Air Traffic Control Tower and I have always said to the management that the Tower is their most critical and valuable asset and that it had to be maintained in such a way that the employees are comfortable, that they are focused, that they are relaxed and that we had to rehabilitate the Tower to what it used to be some years ago when it was constructed.”

It was for this reason, the Minister said, that Government had bent over backwards and sequestered $660M to have within a year or so the procurement and installation of urgently needed capital equipment, distance measuring equipment, high frequency radios, and a host of other things to facilitate the improvement of the Control Tower.

But despite the position put forward by the Minister, Yarde has categorically disclosed that the only change in workers’ position is the fact that a decision has been taken to intensify the struggle.

“We feel it is a blatant abuse of authority and a vicious attempt to take advantage of young decent and hardworking people,” Yarde said.

The strike action has been severely affecting the movement of flights at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, particularly during the nights, an operation which for the past few days has been grounded to a halt.

On Tuesday, the Minister had divulged that he was prepared to put alternative plans in place to ensure that the airport remains operational even if it means restricting the operations to day time only landings and take offs. A number of airlines including Caribbean Airlines are expected to be severely affected should the situation persists.

Reports are that the terminated workers will be able to reapply to the GCAA, but there is no guarantee that they will be placed in their former positions.

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