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Maria Bradshaw


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OPERATIONS at the Grantley Adams International Airport were disrupted briefly yesterday morning when air traffic controllers failed to turn up for duty.
A few flights were cancelled and there were initial delays.
At least one airline – LIAT – issued an advisory in the morning that it had suspended both inbound and outbound flights due to the unavailability of air traffic controllers.
But by afternoon the airline had resumed its service after receiving an all-clear from Barbados.
Notices were issued on radio stations yesterday morning asking all air traffic controllers to report for duty.
Keith Goddard, communications specialist for the airport, said air traffic controllers failed to report for duty at midnight Friday. They had all called in sick.
He said a team from the Ministry of International Business and Aviation, as well as Grantley Adams International Airport Inc., met with operators of the main carriers and apprised them of the situation.
Goddard said yesterday afternoon: “GAIA remains operational and is offering service to all scheduled aircraft at this time.”
Management at GAIA Inc., including chief executive officer David Barrow, operations manager Jason Inniss and Permanent Secretary responsible for Civil Aviation, Tony Archer, were in a meeting for several hours with representatives of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which included president Walter Maloney, general secretary Dennis Clarke and assistant general secretary Roslyn Smith, to discuss the concerns of the air traffic controllers.
The parties will meet again today, but Goddard said they had agreed that all efforts would be made for normal operations to resume today at 7 a.m.
Carriers were apparently advised yesterday that the air traffic control service would be available until midnight when the last flight was due in.
When a SUNDAY SUN team visited the airport yesterday morning, several passengers expressed concern about the situation and said they were informed during check-in that the air traffic controllers had taken industrial action and that flights might be delayed.
By afternoon the situation seemed to have normalised. Airlines were busy checking in passengers and flights appeared to be running smoothly.
This is not the first time that air traffic controllers have staged industrial action.
Last December they failed to report for work and then later staged a two-hour strike.
Earlier this year, union membership at the airport sent a petition to the NUPW asking for the removal of Clarke as general secretary, citing dissatisfaction over the manner in which negotiations between the union and GAIA Inc. had been conducted.
That issue became a major bone of contention at the NUPW’s general conference in April.