Union Says Staff Victimised After Warning Of Health Risk
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
At a press conference yesterday at Labour House, Ms Gray said BATCU “will not accept” disciplinary action against two members who “operated fully within their supervisory right of responsibility to protect the health and safety of their co-workers and themselves”.
The employees had proposed a temporary suspenion of air traffic services because of the conditions in which workers were placed.
Ms Gray said the union members took action that ended employees having to travel nine floors with bottled water just to flush non-working toilets.
Ms Gray said the health and safety situation was “outstanding for a very long time” and “a direct result of the employer’s failure to adhere to its legal obligations.”
“We have two of our union members being victimised and threatened with disciplinary action for which there is no justification,” she said. “The Bahamas Air Traffic Controller’s Union will not accept the rights of our membership being violated, nor our members victimised, as our employer continues to disregard our existing industrial agreement, and the Health and Safety Act.
“As essential servants, the attitude toward resolving pertinent safety issues should be of utmost priority to the Department of Civil Aviation and by extension, the Bahamas government. The BATCU should never find itself in a position having to take extreme actions to prevent victimisation of its membership for basic rights enshrined in the law.”
According to Ms Gray, in 2011 Hurricane Irene left the main building at their facility with significant damage to the roof, damage that she said compromised the safety of the work environment. She said that conditions worsened over time.
Nonetheless, she said, the BATCU encouraged air traffic controllers to remain at their posts with the view that abandoning the facility “for an extended period” would “compromise our aviation product and subsequently our country’s economy.”
Then earlier this year at the Nassau Terminal Radar and Control Facility, she said they experienced “one of many water outages” that they had “become accustomed to.” She said that in order to use the rest rooms, employees would have to carry bottles of water nine floors to flush toilets.
According to Ms Gray, two union members occupying supervisory roles decided to “temporarily suspend the air traffic services,” a move that Ms Gray said was in accordance with both international and local regulations. She said the proposal of temporary suspension would have entailed “significant notification and coordination to ensure that safety of aircraft (were) able to be maintained.” She said senior management was also “duly advised”, but provided “no alternative recommendation to addressing the health and safety concerns.”
Because of this, the union clams the employees are being unfairly disciplined.
Although the temporary suspension never took place, Ms Gray said that the employees’ proposed action “to protect the health and safety of workers” caused the employer to, “within hours” resolve the long-standing water outage problems with “the replacement of a simple back-up water pump.”
“Other places when there’s no water, they close. When there’s no air condition functioning, they close. If we are as essential as the government says that we are, then we should never have to do that,” she said.
“Those two employees who were the ones who caused there to be relief towards that condition are now being victimised and their employment threatened by disciplinary action up to possibly termination. This union is here to ensure that it does not happen, especially where it relates to them acting within their area of scope or responsibility.”
Ms Gray said the union has requested the report that led to the disciplinary actions being recommended, but both the union nor the two members have received any information.
Ms Gray added that the BATCU has officially filed a labour dispute with the Department of Labour and will be lobbying the union body to take a strike poll.
Obie Ferguson, Trade Union Congress president, said the TUC will lend its support and the BATCU will “work as a body, as a unit together” to resolve these matters.