AIA cannot afford to pay; workers agree to part payment
April 16, 2024

AIA cannot afford to pay; workers agree to part payment

The industrial relations battle between the Public Service Union (PSU) and the management of the Argyle International Airport (AIA) has ended with a compromise and just over half of outstanding monies owed to workers to be paid in two months.

PSU President, Elroy Boucher, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT said that the AIA management acknowledged that they cannot afford to pay the full amount, $228,000 in retroactive payments owed to workers.

“The company said they couldn’t afford to pay the amount that was owed. It was over $200,000 in total. They said they were not in a position to pay.”

The conditions agreed upon for the settlement is a 60 percent payout on retroactive payment; the remaining 40 percent will  be awarded in vacation days to workers, which amounts to between nine and 12 vacation days.

The monies owed to workers are retroactive payments on salaries dating back to 2016 when workers moved from the now decommissioned E.T Joshua Airport to the Argyle International Airport. The union had agreed on a forfeiture of payment for the years 2016 to 2018, and the increment for 2019 amounting to 1.5 percent of the AIA workers’ salary, was paid in January, 2023. The union had said they expected the retroactive payments for 2020 through to 2022 to be paid as well. But the AIA management had countered, saying that they had already met their commitment to the workers.

A deadline of April 12, was set to settle retroactive payments or workers threatened to stage industrial action. Days before the strike was set to commence, both parties met for talks which the union head described as ‘contentious’.

“We had insisted that they pay everything, it was at the last minute that it was suggested that if they can’t pay everything then pay the 60 percent. The negotiations were not one that was done in an amicable manner, it was very contentious… because of what we thought was a failure of management to appreciate what these workers went through,” Boucher related.

He said the workers are satisfied with the agreement even though they would have wanted the entire amount paid in cash. Boucher revealed that part of the agreement is that the agreed 60 percent is to be settled in two months, ideally by the end of May.

“That is what caused some of the contention. At one point the company was not behaving as if this was money owed to the workers.”

When questioned as to if the union believes that AIA management will uphold their end of the bargain, Boucher said, “I wouldn’t expect that management will not settle their end of the bargain. The chairman of the Board, I think he means well. The trust with the management of AIA and the previous Board was severely damaged…the workers don’t have the trust in the management. We as the union, we don’t have the trust in management. We are now rebuilding that. It would be dangerous for them to further damage that.”

Out of the meeting, Boucher also disclosed that AIA management agreed to undertake a review of salaries and a report is to be presented to the union following the exercise.